Ban on smoking at work proposed

United Kingdom

On 20 June 2005 the Department of Health issued a consultation paper (Consultation on the Smokefree Elements of the Health Improvement and Protection Bill) which proposes legislation to make most enclosed public places and work places smoke-free. This consultation closes on 5 September.

Although the general principles are clear, there are significant practical difficulties to be resolved. For example the terms "smoke" and "enclosed space" must be defined. The consultation paper proposes the creation of regulation-making powers to allow the legislation to apply in places which may not fall strictly within the definition of "enclosed" but where there is a risk of harm from secondhand smoke, such as stadiums and even bus shelters. Places which prepare and serve food will be required to ban smoking. However the exact meaning of "prepare and serve food" is not yet clear.

Criminal sanctions are proposed for enforcement. So, an employee convicted of smoking in a smokefree place is liable to a fine of £50.

Provisions affecting workplaces are anticipated to come into force by the end of 2007. However the government notes in its consultation paper, referring to the experience of other northern European countries, that the middle of winter is not necessarily the best time to begin asking smokers to go outside!