Research Shows Businesses Aren’t Clued Up on Smoke Free Legislation

(Published May 2007)

Recent research shows that a number of business owners, as many as one in ten have not realised or do not understand that the smoking rooms and shelters they previously supplied for smokers will now have to be shut down. For most the regulations are clear; any enclosed or substantially enclosed structure has to be smoke free. This applies to all structures whether they are permanent or temporary and of course includes indoor smoking rooms.

There are less than twelve weeks left until the Smoke Free legislation goes live on the 1st July (2007) and from that date onwards it will become a criminal offense to smoke within an area designated as a no smoking area.

While 75% of businesses surveyed (according to the Department of Health) state that they know of and understand the soon to launch regulations it would appear that fewer than this understand the direct effect some of the details of the legislation will have on their own specific workplaces.

A number of campaigns have been ongoing over recent months with television, internet, radio and outdoor (i.e. billboard) advertising working to educate individuals and businesses about the 1st July launch date and what this means. Additionally a website has been put in place to offer further advice and guidance while in April Government guidance packs were sent out to businesses registered at Companies House.

Despite these measures it had become clear that further clarification will be needed if businesses especially are to avoid the fixed penalties local authorities are authorised to hand out, as well as prosecution which could occur if the offense is considered severe enough or if non-compliance appears blatant or regular.

With the clock ticking toward the launch of Smoke Free England the 18% of businesses that recognise that they are not yet best placed to meet the regulations (and those who don’t yet realise this) would do well to revisit the documentation, close down smoking rooms and start putting together smoke free policy documents, obtain appropriate signage and more before the launch date.

The Health Minister Caroline Flint has stated that all businesses need to make sure that they fully understand what their responsibilities under the law are, especially as the deadline is looming. One key part of the legislation, Flint continued, was the display of appropriate signage. Guidance on this and more may be downloaded for free or obtained from local councils. Flint added that she was sure that if all parties worked together that there was no reason why everyone shouldn’t be in the best possible position to comply when the 1st July launch date arrived.

From the Chartered Institute of Personal Development Ben Wilmott went on to add that businesses really do need to think ahead to what they wanted to see in their workplace come the 1st July and how this could be achieved. While the fact that the smoking room has to go is irrefutable getting staff involved in the consultation over what this room could now be used for would be a good way to foster communication and positive relationships between staff and management. One suggestion could be a smoke free comfortable break room. Having a relaxing place to take breaks is good for both morale and productivity.

In addition to smoke rooms needing to be closed down there will also be no smoking in any work vehicles as these two fall under the enclosed or substantially enclosed portion of the legislation. The responsibility for enforcement of the legislation ends with the local authorities however those responsible for managing the staff and the workplace have additional responsibilities under the law to ensure that all staff have access to a safe and smoke free working environment. Failing to ensure this may result in the manager / owner also facing hefty fines.

To further support business and employers to prepare for the upcoming launch of the Smoke Free law on the 1st July the following checklist has been produced by the Department of Health for consideration.

Staff and Customers Must Be made Aware

  • All new and existing staff as well as visitors to the site, from clients to contractors and delivery personnel need to be aware that the workplace is a smoke free zone.
  • A smoke free policy should be introduced (after consultation with the staff) to ensure that all know and understand the legislation and their own responsibilities as part of it.

Appropriate Signage Must be Purchased / Printed

  • In order to meet the signage portion of the regulations businesses must ensure that they obtain enough signs for their premises and vehicles and ensure the signage adheres to the government requirements regarding size, location and design.
    * Signage may be downloaded or obtained by called 0800 1690169 (Smoking helpline).

All Indoor Smoking Rooms / Areas Must be Closed

  • All enclosed or substantially enclosed structures or room used for smoking must be closed prior to the launch of the legislation on the 1st
  • Any outdoor smoking areas that also provide shelter must be open enough to ensure they are not classed as enclosed or substantially enclosed. While many employers will not erect shelters now the Smoke Free law is approaching those that chose to need to ensure that what they erect meets local council regulations as well as Smoke Free law.

Offer Support to Staff / Visitors Wanting to Quit Smoking

  • When helping staff quit by offering appropriate advice and support a business/employer is further encouraging compliance with the smoke free law and looking out for the wellbeing of their employees. Contacting the NHS for support on stopping smoking or how to support others may be achieved by 0800 1690169. This helpline will help an employee look for appropriate support groups, resources and more to help them quit smoking altogether and permanently.

Appropriate Methods of Dealing with Non-Compliance Must be decided upon

  • While it is an individual’s decision whether to break the law and smoke in a smoke free zone or not it is also the employer’s responsibility to take all steps to stop this and to maintain a smoke free workplace. Putting together a policy which clearly shows what steps will be taken should the staff members not comply would be useful.
  • This policy should be shown to all staff, new and existing and include details of the disciplinary action that will be taken.
  • Visitors and customers who refuse to not smoke in a workplace may be asked to leave.


Research Notes

This piece was compiled using data from research carried out via Continental Research (the Business Omnibus Surveys) and from a survey of 1655 respondents via the Smoke Free England website ( ).

Further information may be sourced via the Smoke Free England Campaign (call 02074920980) or via our resource page here.