The smoking ban in the UK

On the 1 July 2007, the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations and the Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations came into force which banned smoking in any enclosed or substantially enclosed public place and workplace in England. The ban also covered smoking on public transport and work vehicles and company cars. 

The following are subject to the ban:

  • pubs and bars;
  • restaurants;
  • all places of work;
  • taxis;
  • airports;
  • train stations;
  • train platforms.

Enclosed or substantially enclosed

Under the regulations, premises are enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof (including moveable devices such as a canvas awning) and except for doors, windows and passageways, are wholly enclosed either permanently or temporarily.

Premises are substantially enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof but there is an opening in the walls; or an aggregate area of openings in the walls, which is less than half of the area of the walls, including other structures that serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of the premises.

Places of work

This covers offices, workshops etc, but this also extends to company cars and lorry rigs etc. There are some exceptions to the smoking ban however, including designated smoking areas within hotels or residential nursing homes.

What happens if I get caught smoking in a public place?

Individuals face an on-the-spot fine of £50 pounds if caught smoking in a public place. If the matter reaches court then the individual may be liable to a fine of up to £200.

I run a pub, what happens if my premises are found to be in breach of the ban?

Employers or managers of the premises on which someone has been found to be smoking are liable to a fine of up to £2500.

Owners or employers of premises who consistently flaunt the regulations are likely to face prosecution in court.


The Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2012 revoked and replaced the previous Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2006. The main difference is that since 2012 at least one legible no-smoking sign must still be displayed in smoke-free premises and vehicles, but owners and managers are now free to decide the size, design and location of the signs.

Owners or managers who do not adhere to the Signage Regulations face a fixed penalty of £200, (reduced to £150 if paid within 15 days from issue). Court prosecuted cases hold a maximum fine level of £1000.

Other jurisdictions

The following UK nations also have a smoking ban: 

  • Northern Ireland – came into effect on 30 April 2007 by the Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
  • Scotland – came into effect on 26 March 2006 by The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006
  • Wales – came into effect on Monday 2 April 2007 by the Smoke-free Premises (Wales) Regulations 2007.

Further regulations

The Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulation 2015 changed the law on smoking in vehicles carrying children. Smoking is prohibited in a vehicle if:

  • it is enclosed,
  • there is more than one person present in the vehicle, and
  • a person under the age of 18 is present in the vehicle.

Anyone caught breaching this law is guilty of a criminal offence and will face a fixed penalty notice of £50.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.