Smoke-free businesses

Definitions, legislation and smoke-free policies.

Legislation and definitions

Since 2006 all 'enclosed' and 'substantially enclosed' workplaces and public spaces in England are smoke-free, with a limited number of exemptions.

Definition of ‘enclosed’ and ‘substantially enclosed’ premises

Premises are considered 'enclosed' if they:

  • have a ceiling or roof
  • are wholly enclosed on a permanent or temporary basis (except for doors, windows or passageways)

Premises are 'substantially enclosed' if they have:

  • a ceiling or roof
  • permanent openings in the walls which are less than half of the total areas of walls, including other structures which act like walls and constitute the perimeter of premises

The 50% rule

If 50% of the walls or more are missing, then it is legal to smoke in the area.

If more than 50% of the walls are present, then it is illegal to smoke in the area.

When determining the area of an opening, you should not consider doors, windows or other fittings that can be shut.


The Smoke-free Regulations 2006 require employers to:

  • ensure their premises are smoke-free
  • display ‘No smoking’ signs in a prominent position at all public entrances – businesses can register for free guidance on the Smokefree England website or contact us
  • take reasonable steps to ensure that customers and staff are aware that the premises are legally required to be smoke-free and that everyone complies with the law


There are a few exemptions to the smoke-free rules that apply to workplaces and enclosed public spaces.

Read more: Smoke-free (exemptions and vehicles) regulations 2007

Entrances to buildings

Outside areas are not covered by the legislation.

However, employers may create their own policy and decide that smoking is not permitted within a certain distance from outside entrances. This way, staff and visitors do not have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into the building.

Smoke-free policies

Employers can have their own voluntary smoke-free policies in place that set out where people can smoke.

Contact us if you decide to have a smoke-free policy and need any guidance.

Help to quit smoking

We provide advice and support to businesses and residents who need help to quit smoking. 

Read more on our 'be smoke free' pages.

Contact commercial environmental health