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Ban on smoking in the workplace


Smoking is forbidden in enclosed places of work . This includes office blocks, various buildings, public houses/bars, restaurants and company vehicles (cars and vans). The ban was introduced by the Tobacco Smoking (Prohibition) Regulations 2003.

There is also a limit on the sale of cigarettes. It is no longer possible to buy a pack of 10 cigarettes. You may only buy packs of 20 cigarettes.

The purpose of this ban is to offer protection to employees and the public who are exposed to the harmful and toxic effects of tobacco smoke in the workplace. Smoking has been identified as a major cause of heart disease and a significant contributor to lung cancer.


You are not allowed to smoke in an enclosed place of work. While the ban means that smoking is forbidden in many places, there are a few exceptions:

  • Prisons
  • Police station detention areas
  • St. Patrick's Institution
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospices
  • Religious order homes
  • The Central Mental Hospital
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Maternity homes
  • Hotel, guesthouse and B& B bedrooms
  • Third-level educational residential facilities.

Even though certain places are exempt from the ban, all employers (even those who are exempt) still have the right to enforce the legislation. In other words, even though the above organisations and institutions are not obliged to enforce the ban, they are free to do so if they wish.

Every employer is obliged to protect the health of staff, customers, residents and visitors to their premises. In the case of exempted buildings only, 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 order that residents may only smoke outside or in a designated 'smoking room'.

Given that prisons and places of detention are unique, the law does 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

While smoking in an enclosed workplace is forbidden, employers have discretion to provide an outdoor smoking area, subject to the requirements of the law.

The law has defined 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.

If you wish to make a complaint about smoking in a common area of an apartment block, you should first contact the management company/residents' association of the apartment block and try to reach an agreeable solution. If you wish to make a complaint about smoking in a hotel common area, you should first make your complaint to the hotel management. Remember, it is an offence to smoke in an area that has been designated 'non-smoking'.

If your complaint about smoking in a common area of a building has not been resolved, you should contact your local Environmental Health Officer - see 'Where to apply' below - or phone the Compliance Line at the National Tobacco Control Office, HSE for more advice.

Does my employer have to give me time off work for smoking breaks?

No. Employees are only entitled to time off work for breaks as set down in Section 12 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. Your employer is not obliged to provide smoking breaks for employees.

Enforcement of the smoking ban

Inspections to ensure that the ban is being implemented are undertaken by Environmental Health Officers employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). In addition, inspections are carried out by inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority. The traditional workplace locations visited by the Health and Safety Authority must comply with the smoke-free measures as part of their general compliance with health and safety requirements.

Officers from the HSE work to ensure that smoke-free measures are implemented in workplaces connected with the food and hospitality sector.


Any person found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace may be subject to a fine of up to €3,000. 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.

Further information

You can find information about smoke-free workplaces, guidelines for employers (pdf) and for the licensed trade (pdf) on the website

Where to apply

Contact your local Environmental Health Officer.

Page updated: 12 December 2012



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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.