The smoking ban

Having a fag looks cool and mysterious but the health complications are not so cool (although some are still a mystery. Smoking can cause a lot of problems for you and the people around you, which is exactly why it’s banned in ALL public spaces in the UK. We’re here to talk you through the law and what it means for your smoking habit.

Two young people are walking down the pavement. They are questioning the smoking ban. They are both wearing parkas. This is a full-body image

Your first question would probably be, ‘when did the smoking ban come in?’ Once the smoking ban in England came into effect on 1 July 2007, the whole of the UK became a smoke-free zone as part of the Health Act 2006. It actually proved to be quite beneficial for Public Health. In fact, The Department of Health reported that within the first year 400,000 people quit smoking. There was also a significant decrease in hospital admissions for heart attacks. But what are the exact rules and where can you go for a fag without getting fined?

Where is smoking banned? 

Now that we’ve answered, ‘when did the smoking ban come in’ you’re probably wondering, ‘where can I go for a bloody smoke?’ Let’s give you some background first. Smoking is banned in all indoor and public spaces. This is because when you smoke, not only do you increase your risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease, but also the risk of those around you as a result of passive smoking. Especially if you’re in enclosed public spaces. 

Many places – such as cinemas and public transport – rarely permitted smoking anyway, and now places like pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and private members’ clubs are not allowed to have customers smoking inside.

You also can’t smoke in offices or any workplace; except if you work by yourself. Also, you can’t smoke in a company vehicle that is used by several people; even if they are not in it at the time

Smoking can still be banned at certain outdoor locations that are ‘substantially enclosed’, such as football grounds and covered walkways. It’s also banned on all parts of a railway station, even open-air platforms.

Do these rules apply to vaping? 

No. At the moment there are no specific rules or guidelines around where you can and cannot vape. However, as a result of the recent pandemic as well as Brexit, regulations around e-cigarettes are becoming a lot more rigid. In fact, the government has a plan to significantly reduce tobacco intake (including E-cigarettes) in England by 2022. Keep in mind, just because vaping isn’t as dangerous / addictive as cigarette smoke doesn’t mean it’s completely harmless. 

To find out more about the laws surrounding vaping and how they’re changing, click here.

Where can I smoke?  

You’re still allowed to have a fag outdoors and in the home (or places considered to be ‘homes’, such as prisons, care homes and hotels).

You can smoke in your own car, or a company vehicle that you alone drive. However, you could be prosecuted if you are caught smoking whilst driving, for failing to have proper control of your vehicle.

What happens if I’m caught fag-handed?

If you’re caught smoking in a banned area you could be fined £50. Not a crazy amount, but if you do it enough times you’ll never be able to afford that new iPhone. Pulling the ‘when was smoking banned in UK’ card while trying to play dumb isn’t going to help the situation either. 

But who’s really going to care if I light up a sneaky one? 

The owner of the establishment would be a fool to let you get away with it, especially considering that they could face a £2,500 fine if you smoke in their building. They could also be charged on-the-spot fines of £200 if they fail to display no-smoking signs, with the penalty getting as high as £1,000 if the issue goes to court, not to mention the cost of legal fees.

Can people smoke in blocks of flats?

If you’re a non-smoker, sharing flats with smokers can be frustrating. Not to mention bad for your health. Unfortunately, you can’t really do much as people are entitled to smoke in their own home. But there are ways to manage the situation: 

  • Try and find the source of the smoke. Look for any cracks and gaps in walls and window frames and patch them up. This can make a big difference to the smoke ‘seepage’ and keep your home from smelling so bad.
  • Are they smoking in communal areas? Like in the corridors or on the stairs? If so, contact your landlord or managing agent as this may be a breach of contract.
  • Try talking to your neighbour about it. You may be able to come to an agreement that suits both of you. Some local councils can even provide mediation services if things don’t go smoothly.
  • Ask about building modifications. Your landlord or managing agent may agree to building work that stops the smoke from seeping from one flat to another. But keep in mind that they don’t legally have to do this.
  • If it’s really bad, consider moving. It seems drastic, we know. But if you can’t resolve things with your neighbour, sometimes it’s better for your own mental health to move somewhere different. And who knows, that new place might just be where you find your soulmate (no need to thank us).

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 27-Aug-2021