Smoking in the workplace has been a long standing challenge which needs a smart approach to manage.
Smoke-free legislation was introduced in England in 2007, banning smoking in nearly all enclosed workplaces and public spaces, following similar bans in Scotland and Wales. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the legislation.
HSE and smoke-free legislation
HSE is not responsible for enforcing smoke-free legislation, however, HSE inspectors will bring matters of concern to the attention of the employer, particularly if it involves a number of smokers or if there is a failure to display warning notices. If the employer resists acting on this advice, the inspector will then bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate local authority. Any complaints received by HSE about the smoking ban will be referred to the appropriate local authority.
In premises permitted exemptions under the smoke-free law, health and safety legislation will continue to require employers to reduce the risk to the health and safety of their employees from second-hand smoking to as low a level as is reasonably practicable, and to encourage employers to adopt smoking policies in the workplace which give precedence to the wishes of non-smokers not to be exposed to second-hand smoking.
Even though smoke-free legislation is in place, HSE’s advice on protecting employees from the effects of second-hand smoke remains unchanged in that:
- Employers should have a specific policy on smoking in the workplace.
- Smoking policy should give priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe tobacco smoke.
- Employers should consult their employees and their representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit their particular workplace.
If you would like further information about smoking and the law can be found on the Smoking at work: the law website. Further information about smoking can also be found on the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website.
Who is responsible for smoke-free legislation?
Smoking in public places and the workplace is dealt with as a public health matter within Great Britain. The Department of Health takes the lead on this in England, in Wales this is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government and in Scotland it is the responsibility of the Scottish Government.
From 1st July 2007, all public places and workplaces became smoke-free in England, with the exception of a limited number of exemptions under the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006.
Further information on the requirements under this legislation and what it means for businesses, employers, employees and the public can be found on the Smoke Free England website.
The Department of Health can be contacted at:
Department of Health (DoH)
Tel. 020 7210 4850
or via the Contact us page.
The Health Act 2006 devolves regulation-making powers on this issue to the Welsh Government. The Smoke Free Premises etc. (Wales) Regulations 2007 came into force on 2 April 2007. There are very few exemptions to the smoking ban and anyone who breaches the law could face heavy penalties. Employers, managers and those in control of premises need to display no-smoking notices and take reasonable steps to ensure that staff, customers, members and visitors are aware of the smoking ban and do not smoke in buildings.
Further information on legislation, guidance and signage is available on the Welsh Government website. Alternatively, the Welsh Government can be contacted at:
The Welsh Government
Tel: 0300 060 3300
On 26 March 2006 the law on smoking in Scotland changed. Under the Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006 public places and workplaces became smoke-free, with the exception of a limited number of exemptions. Vehicles used for business purposes are also affected by the new law. These include light and heavy goods vehicles and public transport such as taxis, buses, trains and ferries. All cars, however, are exempt.
Advice and information about the law, including guidance to businesses on how to comply, can be accessed at the Clearing the Air website. The publication Smoke-free Scotland – Guidance on smoking policies for the NHS, local authorities and care service providers (PDF)– Portable Document Format also contains helpful advice. Or contact the Scottish Government’s tobacco control team at:
Scottish Government Health Directorates
Tobacco Control Division
St Andrew’s House
Tel: 0131 244 2619
HSE does not enforce legislation or standards for e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are not regulated like tobacco products and there is currently no bespoke regulatory system for e-cigarettes in the UK, but they are captured by general product safety regulatory requirements.
HSE’s advice is that an employer needs to consider e-cigarettes in the wider context of risk in the workplace. We are aware that some organisations have banned their use but this is not something HSE has advised on. Employers may want to ask for advice on this from Public Health England: email@example.com.
Some organisations may find the Will you permit or prohibit electronic cigarette use on your premises? (PDF)– Portable Document Format document useful. It sets out five questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to permit or prohibit e-cigarette use on your premises
If an employer decides to ‘prohibit’ the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace but allow for ‘vaping’ breaks or provide areas where employees can use e-cigarettes, the employer needs to ensure that those who use e-cigarettes are not put at risk of harm from second-hand tobacco smoke.
This is extracted from the HSE Executive frequently asked questions and answers with the aim of giving you insight on some important subject matter.