Smoking in public places

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. Read our full disclaimer.

Key facts

  • Smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces and places of work, with some exemptions.
  • There is a legal duty for you to display a legible no-smoking sign where it can be seen by customers and staff.
  • There is a legal duty on any person who owns or manages smoke-free premises to ensure that guests, visitors and staff do not smoke on the premises.

Smoking ban

There has been a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and places of work (with some exemptions) since 1 July 2007, when the Health Act 2006 came into force. 

Does the Act apply to me?

Yes: if you own or manage enclosed or substantially enclosed premises that are open to the public or are used as a place of work by more than one person or where members of the public might visit to receive or provide goods or services.

Note: while the areas of premises to which the ban applies, definitions and exemptions are the same in Wales, the signage requirement is different.


Enclosed places: premises are considered to be enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof and, except for doors, windows or passageways, are wholly enclosed, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

Substantially enclosed areas - the 50% rule: substantially enclosed premises are defined as those that have a ceiling or roof (including retractable roofs such as awnings), but have permanent openings in the walls, not including doors or windows, which are less than half of the total area of the walls. Walls include fixed or retractable structures that serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of premises (e.g. windbreaks). Temporary structures such as tents, marquees or similar will be classified as enclosed premises if they fall within the definition.


While smoking is banned from all the indoor public and communal areas of attractions, hotels and guesthouses, there are a number of exemptions:

  • self-contained short-term rental accommodation (holiday cottages/flats/caravans) are not required to be smoke-free but you retain the right to determine whether to allow smoking in your property
  • the private areas of bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are not covered by the ban, provided that the areas are not used by any staff (i.e. the laundry may be out of bounds for customers but if a cleaner has to use it, it is covered by the ban)
  • designated bedrooms in hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. To qualify, a designated bedroom must:
    •     be designated in writing by the person in charge of the premises as being a smoking room
    •     be completely enclosed except for doors and windows
    •     have a ventilation system that must not discharge into any non-smoking part of the premises
    •     have doors to smoke-free parts of the premises that shut mechanically after use
    •     be clearly marked as a room in which smoking is permitted.

It should be noted that there is no legal requirement for an accommodation owner to provide designated smoking bedrooms. Providing such rooms is purely at the discretion of the owner.


The Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2012 (England only) require you to display at least one legible no-smoking sign. There is no requirement on the location or size of the sign, provided that it is able to be seen by customers and staff.

Enforcement and penalties

Enforcement is the responsibility of local authorities. Environmental health officers have the power to enter all 'no-smoking premises' in order to establish that the smoke-free legislation is being enforced in accordance with the law.

Failure to display appropriate non-smoking signage may result in a fine, and the legislation also places a legal duty on any person who owns or manages smoke-free premises to ensure that guests, visitors and staff do not smoke on the premises.

Owners or managers who are found not to have taken reasonable steps to stop people smoking on their premises will be liable to a fine of up to £2500 on conviction.


The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces and places of work does not apply to the use of e-cigarettes or vaping. It is therefore up to operators to determine whether vaping is allowed anywhere on the premises, restricted to only certain areas or prohibited in any part of the premises.