The History Behind the Indoor Smoking Ban in the UK

By Elina Panayotova


Since 2007 and the introduction of the ban on indoor smoking, UK public indoor areas and businesses have been smoke-free. The laws, properly called the Smoke-free (Excemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007 and the Health Act 2006 , banned smoking in all enclosed public areas, including places such as pubs and restaurants.

Prior to this, smoking had been permitted indoors in most public and work buildings, with concessions made such as smoke rooms and designated smoking areas. In restaurants, patrons would be asked at the entrance if they wished to dine in a smoking or non-smoking part of the dining room, although at smaller establishments, smokers and non-smokers often shared the same space.


Why has the UK banned indoor smoking?

The indoor smoking ban was implemented for the ‘prevention and control of health care associated infections’. The indoor smoking ban was not supposed to be immediately applicable to all enclosed public spaces, however this was changed to a full ban rather than a phased implementation. The final law was approved as an indoor smoking ban on all enclosed public spaces.


Indoor Smoking Ban Timeline: When was Smoking Banned Indoors?

Here’s a closer look at how the indoor smoking ban came to be, as well as the continuing developments on banning indoor public smoking:


November 2004

The government releases a white paper outlining the need for a ban. Initially, the plan was to ban indoor smoking in NHS and government buildings by 2006, in enclosed public spaces by 2007, and in pubs, bars, and restaurants by 2008.


October 2005

The government announced its plans to push on with plans for the ban. This was met with opposition from some MPs, many of whom wanted a total ban on indoor smoking in all enclosed areas, not a phased ban implemented over several years.


January 2006

A free vote was announced among MPs to decide if the bill should be amended.


February 2006

The vote takes place, confirming that a total ban on indoor smoking should come into effect in England.


March 2006

Scotland introduces an indoor smoking ban.


April 2007

Wales introduces an indoor smoking ban, followed by Northern Ireland.


July 2007

The indoor smoking ban was brought into force in England by the implementation of the The Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007.


October 2015

England and Wales ban smoking in vehicles in which a minor is present. Scotland followed suit in December.


Frequently Asked Questions About The Indoor Smoking Ban


Who Implemented the Indoor Smoking Ban?

The ban was initially proposed by Public Health England. Following discussion by MPs, it came into law as announced by the Health Secretary at the time, Patricia Hewitt.


What Year Was Indoor Smoking Banned?

Indoor smoking was banned on 1st July 2007 for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It was banned in 2006 for Scotland, while the Republic of Ireland banned indoor smoking in 2004.


How Has the Indoor Smoking Ban Affected Smoking?

The indoor smoking ban meant that smoking cigarettes in enclosed public spaces was no longer allowed. In terms of results, the indoor smoking ban led to reduced smoking incidence. In 2006, 22% of people smoked. By 2019, that number had been reduced to 15%. [1]


Rules Around Indoor Smoking Around the World



In the UK, the indoor smoking ban was first introduced in Scotland, followed by Wales and Northern Ireland, before it was finally enforced in England. Globally, the first indoor smoking ban came into effect in the Republic of Ireland in 2004.



Within Europe, indoor smoking bans are widely adopted. Generally, they follow the same blueprint as the ban initially implemented by the Republic of Ireland, covering enclosed public spaces. Some European countries differ in their approach; in Germany, some businesses, particularly those part of the hospitality industry, are not required to ban indoor smoking.



So, what about Oceania? Australia has laws on smoking, including the banning of smoking in cars where children are present, as well as in all enclosed public areas, with the exception of certain jurisdications which allow smoking in gaming areas of specific hospitality venues as well as in hotel guest rooms. Furthermore, some public outdoor areas are subject to council-enforced smoking bans. The government of New Zealand introduced an indoor smoking ban in 2003 (effective 2004), with the exception of dedicated smoking rooms in rest homes and residential care institutions, and aim to be totally smoke-free as a nation by 2025.



Laws around indoor smoking vary widely throughout Africa. Nigeria enforces the smoke-free provisions of their National Tobacco Control Act 2015 by imposing duties and/or fines on individuals who smoke in prohibited areas.. Ethiopia bans smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces and public transport.



In Asia, smoke-free laws vary. Hong Kong introduced a nationwide ban restricting smoking in public places, with certain exemptions, in 2007.] In Mainland China, a national ban on smoking in public spaces was introduced in 2011. By contrast, Japan does not have any official laws banning indoor smoking.



America’s laws on indoor smoking bans vary widely from state to state. States such as New York, Montana, Illinois, California and Washington ban smoking in enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants, whereas states such as Alabama, Wyoming and South Carolina do not impose statewide smoke-free mandates.


This is just a snapshot of some of the different rules across the rest of the world, ultimately however as of 2021, few countries still allow smoking indoors in public areas.




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