Last updated: December 6, 2021


The United Kingdom became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on March 16, 2005.

Smoke Free Places

Smoking is prohibited in public transport, indoor public places, and indoor workplaces, including work vehicles. There are a few very limited exceptions to the ban. Specifically, smoking is permitted in designated rooms in hotels, residential care homes, nursing homes, hospices, and prisons; and smoking is permitted for sampling cigars or pipe tobacco in specialist tobacco shops. Local jurisdictions are not permitted to have smoke free laws.

Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship

Tobacco advertising and promotion is generally prohibited, subject to a few exceptions such as direct person-to-person communications and retailer incentive programs. Point-of-sale tobacco advertising is prohibited in large and small retail shops, although permitted inside specialist tobacconists for tobacco products other than cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. Display of tobacco products is prohibited in large and small retail shops, although permitted, subject to some restrictions, in specialist tobacconists and bulk tobacconists. There are some restrictions on tobacco sponsorship and the publicity of such sponsorship.

Tobacco Packaging and Labeling

Standardized (plain) packaging is required for all packages of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco produced after May 20, 2016. Products produced before that date were permitted to be sold until May 20, 2017. Packaging must be Pantone 448 C - a medium brown color - made of carton or soft material, be cuboid in shape, and may not contain any elements - including text, trademark or other symbols - other than the required health warnings and specific product information in a prescribed font and size. 

Rotating graphic health warnings must occupy 65 percent of the front and 65 percent of the back of all smoked tobacco product packaging. For smokeless tobacco product packaging, one text-only health warning must occupy 30 percent of the front and 30 percent of the back of the package. Misleading packaging and labeling, which could include terms such as “light” and “low tar” and other signs, is prohibited.

Cigarette Contents

The law regulates specified contents of cigarettes, including banning characterizing flavors; and ingredients that facilitate nicotine uptake, create the impression of health benefits, or are associated with energy and vitality; among others. The law requires that manufacturers and importers disclose to government authorities and the public information on the contents and emissions of their products.

Sales Restrictions

The law prohibits the sale of tobacco products via vending machines, single cigarettes, small packets of cigarettes, and tobacco for oral use. The law restricts the sale of tobacco products via the internet. The sale of tobacco products is prohibited to persons under the age of 18.

Roadmap to Tobacco Control Legislation

The Smoking Order 2006 regulates smoking in public places, workplaces and public transport. Numerous implementing regulations have been issued under the Smoking Order including: 1) Smoke-free (Premises, Vehicle Operators and Penalty Notices) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, which define “enclosed” and “substantially enclosed”, impose a duty on vehicle operators to prohibit smoking in public vehicles, and provide penalty forms; 2) Smoke-free (Exemptions, Vehicles, Penalties and Discounted Amounts) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, which set out exemptions to the smoking ban, regulate smoking in vehicles, and provide penalties for violations of the Smoking Order 2006; and 3) Smoke-Free (Signs) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, which regulates the content, form and display of no-smoking signs.

Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 (TAPA) governs tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, other than on broadcast media. TAPA was amended by: 1) the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion 2002 etc. (Amendments) Regulations, 2006, which added provisions to specifically address information society services, such as the internet, and 2) the Health Act 2009, which authorized regulations to: prohibit tobacco product display at retail shops, restrict product displays on websites, and prohibit tobacco vending machines.

Numerous regulations have been issued under TAPA to implement the Act. The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Brandsharing) Regulations 2004 prohibit brand sharing and reverse brand sharing. Three sets of regulations were issued in 2012 – (1) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012; (2) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display of Prices) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012; and (3) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Specialist Tobacconists) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012. These replace previous regulations issued in 2004 regulating product display and advertising at points of sale.

Sales to minors, including vending machine sales, are regulated by the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, the Children’s and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, the Children’s and Young Persons (Sale of Tobacco, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008, and the Protection from Tobacco (Sales from Vending Machines) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Broadcast media is regulated by the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, which prohibits tobacco advertising on broadcast media regulated by Ofcom (TV, radio, and mobile phones). The paid placement of tobacco products on TV and on-demand programs is prohibited by the Audiovisual Media Services (Product Placement) Regulations 2010 and unpaid depiction of tobacco products or smoking is restricted by the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

The packaging and labeling of tobacco products is governed by Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015.

Review Status

This country’s legal measures were reviewed by our legal staff in consultation with in-country lawyers or tobacco control experts.

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