Go to navigation

Smokefree - some questions and answers

These detail how smokefree legislation affects individuals and businesses and deal with important aspects of the legislation. If you need to know more, please contact the council's Environmental Health Service on 01634 333222.

When did the smokefree law come into effect?

Workplaces and enclosed public places became smokefree from 6am on Sunday, 1 July 2007. All forms of smoking are prohibited in areas covered by the legislation.

Which workplaces are covered by the legislation?

The Health Act 2006  requires all enclosed public places and workplaces such as:

  • offices
  • factories
  • shops
  • pubs
  • bars
  • restaurants
  • membership clubs
  • public transport
  • work vehicles

that are used by more than one person to be smoke-free. Indoor smoking rooms are not permitted in the workplace.

The legislation covers all premises which are wholly or substantially enclosed. There are specific exemptions for workplaces that are also a person’s home.

What kind of smoking shelter is OK and what does “substantially enclosed” mean?

Smoking is only to be allowed in shelters that are not substantially enclosed. In simple terms, the regulations state that premises are considered “substantially enclosed” if they have a ceiling or roof and are 50 per cent or more enclosed by walls or screens. A roof includes any fixed or moveable structure or device, e.g. retractable canvas awnings capable of covering all or part of the premises.

Do I have to provide a smoking shelter?

No. There is no requirement to provide a smoking shelter but if provided, it must comply with the law.

Do I need planning permission for a smoking shelter?

You may need permission depending on the type of shelter you are proposing. For advice, contact Medway Council's Development Control Section.

What does the smokefree legislation mean in practice?

Employers and managers must ensure their premises are smokefree. They need to display signs in buildings and vehicles. Signs must be displayed at each entrance to the building or individual unit, in a position that is prominently visible and easily read by persons entering the premises.

How does the law affect vehicles?

Work vehicles, including taxis, vans and minicabs, used by more than one person, regardless of whether they use the vehicle at the same time, have to be smokefree. All smokefree vehicles are required to display a "no smoking" sign that consists solely of a graphic representation of a single burning cigarette in a red circle of at least 70mm in diameter with a red bar across it.

Does the new law apply everywhere?

Some workplaces, which are also a person’s home, e.g. prisons, hospices and long-stay psychiatric hospitals, have an exemption. In these places, employers have to identify "designated smoking rooms" and no other activity is allowed in these rooms.

Self-contained holiday accommodation, e.g. caravans and holiday cottages, are not required to be smokefree. Hotels are permitted to have rooms that are designated as smoking rooms. Designated rooms have to meet certain conditions to qualify for an exemption.

Does this apply to my own home?

Private homes are not covered by the legislation. There is no requirement for a person to not smoke in their own home if a tradesman, nanny, cleaner or carer is present. The government expects that private agreements can be reached in these circumstances.

Are employers required to provide smoking breaks or outside smoking areas?

No. By law, employers must give staff an uninterrupted rest break of 20 minutes when their daily working time is more than six hours. Staff can, of course, smoke during their rest period if they choose but they must not smoke in an enclosed or substantially enclosed area. There is no requirement to provide a smoking shelter. Employers must decide whether or not to permit smoking elsewhere on the premises, e.g. in open car parks or the grounds.

Does the law cover entrances to buildings?

Outside areas are not covered by the legislation but employers may wish to consider making it a policy that smoking is not permitted within a certain distance from outside entrances, if possible, so that staff and visitors do not have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into the building. There is no legal requirement to do this.

What are the penalties for breaking the law?

For business owners or those who have management responsibilities:

  • failure to display minimum no smoking signs: a fine of up to £1,000 or a fixed penalty of £200
  • failure to prevent smoking in a smoke-free place: a fine of up to £2,500.

For individuals:

  • smoking in a no-smoking place: a fine of up to £200 or a fixed penalty of £50
  • littering, which includes dropping cigarette ends and packaging, is also an offence that may lead to a fixed penalty fine. Logo for Smokefree

Council officers are authorised to issue the fixed penalty notices.