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Advice on smoking at work

Smoking in public places and the workplace is dealt with as a public health matter within Great Britain. The Department of Health takes the lead on this in England, in Wales this is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government and in Scotland it is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive. The situation is as follows:


On 26 March 2006 the law on smoking in Scotland changed. Under the Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006 public places and workplaces became smoke-free, with the exception of a limited number of exemptions. Vehicles used for business purposes are also affected by the new law. These include light and heavy goods vehicles and public transport such as taxis, buses, trains and ferries. All cars, however, will be exempt.

Advice and information about the new law, including guidance to businesses on how to comply, can be accessed at Or contact the Scottish Executive’s tobacco control team at:

Scottish Executive Health Department
Tobacco Control Division
St Andrew’s House
Tel: 0131 244  5660

England and Wales

The Health Bill devolves regulation-making powers on this issue to the Welsh Government. The Smoke Free Premises etc. (Wales) Regulations 2007 came into force on the 2nd of April, and there are very few exemptions to the smoking ban and anyone who breaches the law could face heavy penalties. Employers, managers and those in control of premises will need to display no-smoking notices and take reasonable steps to ensure that staff, customers, members and visitors are aware of the new law and do not smoke in buildings.

Further information on legislation, guidance and signage is available.

Alternatively, the Welsh Government can be contacted at:

The Welsh government
Cathays Park
CF10 3NQ
Tel: 0300 060 3300

From 1st July 2007, all public places and workplaces will become smoke-free in England, with the exception of a limited number of exemptions under the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006.

Further information on the requirements under this new legislation and what it means for businesses, employers, employees and the public can be found at Smoke free England.

An information service is also available on 0800 169 1697.

Alternatively the Department of Health can be contacted at:

Department of Health (DoH)
Richmond House
79 Whitehall
Tel. 020 7210 4850

HSE and smoke free legislation

HSE is not responsible for enforcing the legislation but will fully support Local Authority officers both in raising employers’ awareness of their responsibilities and in encouraging employers and employees to comply with the new legislation above. HSE inspectors will bring matters of concern to the attention of the employer, particularly if it involves a number of smokers or if there is a failure to display warning notices. Should the employer resist acting on this advice, the inspector will then bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate local authority. Any complaints received by HSE about the smoking ban will be referred to the appropriate local authority.

HSE will also support the new legislation by sending out flyers, and work in partnership with local authorities on health promotional matters as appropriate.

Premises exempt from smoke free legislation

Health and Safety legislation will continue to require employers, in premises permitted exemptions under the smoke-free law, to reduce the risk to the health and safety of their employees from second hand smoking to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. The publication Smoke-free Scotland - Guidance on smoking policies for the NHS, local authorities and care service providers [PDF 118kb] contains helpful advice on how to do this. It can also be obtained from the Scottish Executive at the above address.

In exempted premises, HSE will continue to promote a sensible, proportionate management of second hand smoking to as low a level as is reasonably practicable and to encourage employers to adopt smoking policies in the workplace which give precedence to the wishes of non-smokers not to be exposed to second hand smoking.

Even with new smoke-free legislation, HSE’s advice on protecting employees from the effects of second hand smoke remains unchanged in that:

  1. Employers should have a specific policy on smoking in the workplace.
  2. Employers should take action to reduce the risk to the health and safety of their employees from second hand smoke to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. 
  3. Smoking policy should give priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe tobacco smoke.
  4. Employers should consult their employees and their representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit their particular workplace.

If you would like further information about smoking, please contact the Department of Health’s Customer Service Centre on 020 7210 4850, or visit the Department of Health's tobacco website. Further information about smoking can also be found on the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website.

Updated 2014-05-09