97 per cent of premises inspected in the two weeks after 1 July were smokefree as required by the new law, data published today by the Department of Health reveals.
Minister of State for Public Health, Dawn Primarolo, said:
"When we introduced the smokefree law last month, we predicted that it would be largely self-enforcing based on experience elsewhere and the fact that three-quarters of the public supported the move.
"These figures confirm that, just as happened previously in Ireland then Scotland, England saw very high levels of compliance in the first few days. All the signs are that businesses and the public have taken the new law in their stride.
"These high levels of real protection from secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces are a testament to everyone involved. Efforts from enforcement officers in local authorities and businesses, especially those in the hospitality sector and also the public have all contributed to making this country a healthier place in which to work and socialise".
Removing secondhand smoke from enclosed public and work environments is an enormous step for public health. Thousands of lives will be saved. Others will be spared the misery of watching family and friends die prematurely from secondhand smoke-related illnesses.
So far, data has been collected from 88,899 inspections, which includes 1,090 hotels, 6,783 restaurants and 9,568 licensed premises. Enforcement officers found that 97 per cent of premises were respecting the requirement to prohibit smoking in enclosed premises and 79 per cent were displaying the correct no-smoking signage. Compliance was even higher in smokefree vehicles, with figures of 98 per cent and 84 per cent respectively.
Although these figures only relate to the first two weeks, compliance is already comparable to the high levels experienced during the first month of smokefree in Scotland and Ireland. A similar pattern has also emerged with regards to signage requirements, with 'other' premises less likely to be compliant than licensed premises, accommodation and restaurants.
Local authorities are continuing to work with businesses to ensure they understand the requirement for no-smoking signs to be displayed at the entrance to all public places and workplaces covered by the law.
During the first two weeks of inspections, it has only been necessary to issue one fixed penalty notice to an individual wilfully flouting the law by smoking in a smokefree place. Councils have instead ensured that businesses and individuals are given sufficient opportunity to comply with the law and have so far issued 142 written warnings following failure to prevent smoking (equivalent to 0.2% of premises inspected). There were no court hearings.
Graham Jukes, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said: "The acceptance of the new law reveals the good planning and investment put in place by the Department of Health, local authorities and business leaders in the run up to 1st July. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is proud to have played a key role in the implementation of what has turned out to be popular legislation with a limited need for enforcement action to be taken."
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, Chairman of the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, said: "The high level of compliance is testament not only to the businesses, landlords and members of the public who have wholeheartedly embraced the new law - but also to the council environmental health officers who have carried out their work with a light touch, an even-hand, and a commitment to advising people rather than punishing them."
Over the first month there has also been a steady downward trend in calls to the Smokefree England compliance line. In total, 2,342 calls were received during the first four weeks and 606 of these were passed on to local authorities to follow up. Calls peaked during the first week at 1,024, although only 232 of these were leads with sufficient information to pass to local councils. However only 378 calls were received during the week of 22nd July, with 110 leads passed to councils.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The compliance data returned from local authorities refers to the first two weeks of smokefree law (1-13th July). 91% of local authorities made returns. The next set of data will be available in mid August and will contain data for the whole month of July.
2. For media queries only contact the Department of Health Press Office on 020 7210 5221.