Smoke free UK beckons

Published:  18 May, 2007

A smokefree England will be a reality on the 1st July. But with the ban on smoking only days away, organisations across the UK are claiming it will have little impact on their business. Almost 600 managers were asked to respond to a quick-reaction-survey, with the majority adopting an attitude of 'business as usual' and suggesting that the legislation will lead to minimal changes in workplace behaviour.

The survey, conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, reveals that only 6 % of managers believe the new law will create ‘significant" disruption.  91 % argue that it will have little or no impact. Respondents also suggest the cost of implementing the ban will be minimal. For organisations with up to 25 employees, the estimated cost is in the region of £30 per head. Employers with 5000 to 10,000 staff anticipate paying only £4 per person.

Stephen Thomas, safety technical consultant for Croner Consulting, explained that at the heart of the smoke free legislation is the protection of employees from the dangers of passive smoking by making it an offence to smoke in enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces and public areas.

Thomas explains that local council enforcement officers will generally enforce the ban and will have the power to enter smoke free premises to determine if the law is being followed. They may also assess whether those in control of the premises are doing enough to prevent people smoking. Employers who allow persons to smoke in smoke free premises could be fined.

Designated smoking rooms will no longer be allowed even if they are mechanically ventilated (even if they contain mechanical extraction or ventilation systems) except in certain exempt premises.

The ban will cover company cars, vans and lorries that are used as a workplace by more than one person (including passengers) at any time regardless of whether they are in the vehicle at the same time. It also includes public transport, private taxis, communal areas in managed premises and function rooms. However the ban will not apply to company vehicles provided for the sole use of the driver.

Exemptions to the legislation are very few, mainly in domestic premises and certain exemptions on humanitarian grounds e.g. hospices and care homes.

While companies may wish to be sympathetic to their smoking employees, customers and others using the premises by providing external smoking areas, there is no legal requirement to provide designated smoking areas for smokers.

‘Smoking shelters’ that are being sold in advance of the ban being implemented may not be compliant with the legislation. If in doubt, contact the supplier or local council. Similarly erecting a smoking shelter may require planning permission, which again should be sought from the relevant authorities. Provision of fire-resistant ‘stubbing out’ bins and cleaning schedules should be considered.

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