On 1 July 2007 smoking will be banned in all enclosed public places and workplaces in England. But what do facilities managers need to do to avoid substantial fines?
by Bernard Crouch
29 June 2007
The ban on smoking in public places in England, which comes into force next month, aims to remove secondhand tobacco smoke from most places of work, to protect staff while at work and to protect people visiting leisure facilities, such as restaurants, pubs, membership clubs and bingo halls. Secondhand tobacco smoke is described by the government as "highly toxic", with no 'safe level of exposure'. However, there is no legislation planned to stop anyone from smoking in their own homes.
The government also has no plans to ban smoking altogether because it receives over £9 billion per year in tax on tobacco products while the NHS spends about £2 billion per year in treating tobacco-related diseases. The UK is also a major manufacturer of cigarettes with thousands employed in making products for both the UK and overseas markets.
Will the new law reduce the number of smokers? Both Norway and Ireland experienced an initial drop in the number of smokers, followed by an increase in the number of teenagers smoking. The UK had a smoking 'peak' during the Second World War of about 80 per cent of the population smoking, which has steadily dropped since to the current static level of 27 per cent. Sweden has opted for a fairly limited smoking ban with smoking and non smoking areas, but has set a target to reduce teenage smoking by half by 2014 which it believes will be more effective than a widespread ban.
Organisations can avoid receiving a £2,500 fine by informing staff and customers and placing correct signage to be clearly visible when entering the building - this includes within a larger building eg a small no smoking symbol must be displayed at the entrance to a shop within a shopping centre.
The legislation is complicated regarding outside shelters and vehicles. A simple solution is to ban smoking in all company vehicles at all times and in any private vehicles when used on company business. If you have an outside shelter then it must be no more than 50 per cent enclosed to be legal. Smokers should be encouraged to move away from the building for their smoking breaks.
The structure of fines includes a fixed penalty notice for the smoker of £30 and a court awarded fine of £200. Failure to display the correct no smoking signs will attract a fixed penalty of £150 and a courtroom fine of up to £1,000. Failure to prevent smoking in the workplace including company vehicles or vehicles being used for business will result in a court fine of up to £2,500.
The government has appointed a team of inspectors who will be looking out for offenders in England. In Scotland following the introduction of their ban in March 2006, there has been just four instances of smokers lighting up and refusing to extinguish their cigarette, only one of these became potentially violent threatening a member of staff. If a smoker on your premises refuses to put out a cigarette you are advised to call the police. From 1 July (in England) you can also call 0800 587 1667 to report any breaches of the law by smokers.
Sign of the times
You will need to display a no-smoking sign at every entrance of a minimum A5 size (210mm x 148mm) with the 70mm international no smoking symbol displayed and the words "No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises". The last two words "these premises" can be changed to refer to the type of premises such as "this gym" or "this church". The smaller 70mm sign with the no smoking symbol only, will need to by displayed at entrances used by staff only or within a larger premises such as a shop in a mall. The no smoking symbol must be displayed in each compartment of a vehicle in which people can be carried.
Smoking areas: where to light up
The areas where smoking will still be allowed are:
Mental healthcare units (until 1 July 2008)
Oil rigs may have designated smoking rooms
Designated hotel bedrooms,
On stage by actors during live performances, but not during rehearsals
On board ships (subject to further regulations)
In private vehicles provided they are not used for business
In company-owned convertibles (providing the roof is down)
Tobacconists shops for sampling cigars or pipe tobacco
Research and testing facilities for research or testing specified in the law
Care homes and hospices (designated bedrooms or rooms for over 18 year olds only)
Royal palaces including the Palace of Westminster
Smoking is allowed at home unless it is used for work purposes with (other) staff, or the public, coming to work there or to receive goods or services.
Bernard Crouch is a former director of Smoke Free Systems UK