Smoking in the workplace

What is the smoking ban?

Public health laws state that smoking is banned in enclosed places of work. 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.

The law covering smoking in the workplace is the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002-2015.

Rules for smoking in the workplace

You are not allowed to smoke in an enclosed place of work. This includes office blocks, aircraft, trains, company vehicles, health premises, schools, colleges, cinemas, theatres, licensed premises and clubs, if any of these places is your place of work.

Exempt premises

There are a few premises that are exempt from the ban on smoking in the workplace. These are:

  • 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 want, designate certain areas of their premises as smoking or non-smoking to minimise risk.

For example, even though a nursing home is exempt from the smoking ban, the owners of the nursing home could specify that residents can 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, there is nothing to stop prison authorities from designating these institutions as entirely non-smoking or establish designated smoking rooms if they want.

Does my employer have to give me a place to smoke?

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.

Am I entitled to 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.

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.

Check with your employer if you are unsure about the rules on vaping in your workplace.

Fines for smoking in a place of work

If you are found guilty of breaching the ban on smoking in the workplace you can get 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.

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.

Inspections of workplace compliance

Environmental Health Officers employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) carry out inspections in workplaces to make sure that the ban is being implemented.

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 find more information about tobacco control on the HSE website.

Complain about smoking in a workplace

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

If you want 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 you are not satisfied with how your complaint is dealt with, contact your local Environmental Health Service within the HSE or call the National Tobacco Control Office compliance line: 1800 333100.

Where to complain

Page edited: 14 June 2022