Ban on smoking in the workplace

Introduction

Smoking is forbidden in enclosed places of work under the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002-2015. The purpose of the ban is to protect employees and the public from exposure to the harmful and toxic effects of tobacco smoke in the workplace.

Rules for smoking in the workplace

You are not allowed to smoke in an enclosed place of work. This includes (but is not limited to) office blocks, aircraft, trains, company vehicles, health premises, schools, colleges, cinemas, theatres, licensed premises and clubs, so long as each of these places is a place of work.

While the ban means that smoking is forbidden in many places, there are a few exceptions:

  • Prisons
  • Police station detention areas
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospices
  • Religious order homes
  • The Central Mental Hospital
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Bedrooms in hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Third-level educational residential facilities.

Every employer must protect the health of staff, customers, residents and visitors to their premises. In the case of the exempted buildings listed above, this means that employers can, if they wish, designate certain areas of their premises as smoking or non-smoking in order to minimise risk. This means, for example, that even though a nursing home is exempt from the smoking ban, the owners of the nursing home could specify that residents may only smoke outside or in a designated smoking room.

Given the unique nature of prisons and places of detention, the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts do not apply to these institutions. Again, however, there is nothing to stop prison authorities from designating these institutions as entirely non-smoking or establish designated smoking rooms if they wish.

Outdoor smoking areas

Employers do not have to provide an outdoor smoking area for staff or customers on their premises.

If an employer does provide a smoking area, the relevant part of the place or premises must be outdoors. The law defines an outdoor area as:

  • A place or premises (or part of a place or premises) that is wholly uncovered by any roof, fixed or mobile.
  • An outdoor place or premises that is covered by a roof, so long as not more than 50% of the perimeter (outside) is covered by a wall, windows, gate or similar.

Common areas of buildings

The smoking ban also applies to common areas within buildings. This means, for example, that corridors, lobby areas and reception areas of buildings such as apartment blocks and hotels are also covered.

Smoking breaks

As an employee, you are not, by law, entitled to smoking breaks. You are only entitled to time off work for breaks as set down in Section 12 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

Employers' obligations

Employers and managers are expected to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that their staff, customers and visitors are aware of the smoking ban in the workplace and that no smoking takes place there. Employers and managers must:

  • Have a smoke-free policy which is clearly communicated
  • Display a “No Smoking” sign to alert staff, customers and visitors of the workplace smoking ban
  • Provide external stubbing bins at entrances where appropriate.

Employers should also ensure that infringements by employees or customers are dealt with under local disciplinary procedures.

Environmental Health Officers employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) carry out inspections in a variety of workplaces to ensure that the ban is being implemented. In particular, Officers from the HSE oversee that smoke-free measures are implemented in workplaces connected with the food, hospitality and leisure sector as part of their general compliance with health and safety requirements.

You can read information about tobacco control (pdf), guidelines for employers (pdf) and for the licensed trade (pdf).

Fines for smoking in a place of work

If you are found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a Class B fine. The owner, manager or person in charge of the workplace is legally responsible for ensuring that the ban on smoking in the workplace is complied with.

Where to complain

If you have a complaint about people smoking in a workplace, first bring the issue to the attention of the person in charge, such as the owner or manager of the business.

If you wish to complain about smoking in a common or non-smoking area of an apartment block, you should first contact the management company or residents' association of the apartment block and try to reach an agreeable solution.

If you wish to complain about smoking in a common area or non-smoking are of a hotel, you should first make your complaint to the hotel management.

If your complaint is not dealt with satisfactorily contact your local Environmental Health Service within the HSE or call the National Tobacco Control Office compliance line: 1890 333100.

E-cigarettes (or vaping) at work

E-cigarettes are not covered under the smoking ban. Your employer may have a policy on the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. If in doubt as to the rules in your workplace, you should check with your employer.

Where to apply

Contact your local Environmental Health Officer.

Page edited: 13 July 2018