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 transportation and virtually all indoor public places and workplaces. There are a few limited exceptions to the smoking ban. Specifically, smoking is permitted in designated rooms in adult hospices, adult care homes, psychiatric hospitals, and units; designated hotel rooms; detention or interview rooms; offshore installations; laboratory rooms; and HM Submarines and ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship

Tobacco advertising and promotion is generally prohibited subject to a few exceptions, such as: at limited points of sale, 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, bulk tobacconists, and duty-free shops. 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 sale of tobacco products is prohibited to persons under the age of 18.

Roadmap to Tobacco Control Legislation

The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 prohibits smoking in “no smoking premises” and authorizes regulations to designate enclosed and substantially enclosed premises as “no smoking premises.” The Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006, issued under the authority of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005, specify premises where smoking is prohibited and premises where smoking rooms may be allowed. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 provide definitions that are applicable to the ban on smoking contained in the Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises Regulations 2006. Prisons and air navigation are not regulated under the Smoking, Health and Social Care Act 2005. For prisons, the Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules regulate smoking; and for air navigation, the Air Navigation Order 2009 applies. Certain guidance documents, including Guidance on Smoking Policies for the National Health Service, Local Authorities, and Care Service Providers, 2005 and the Enforcement Protocol, offer guidance on implementation and enforcement of smoke free provisions; however these documents are not legally binding.

Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is governed by laws that apply across the UK and laws that apply in Scotland only. The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 (“TAPA”) governs tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in the UK other than on broadcast media. Certain provisions of TAPA specify that they apply to parts of the UK only. TAPA was amended by: 1) the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion 2002 etc. (Amendment) Regulations 2006, which added provisions to specifically address information society services such as the internet, and 2) the Health Act 2009, which authorized regulations on product display and vending machines. Many of the Health Act 2009 amendment provisions apply in England, Northern Ireland and Wales only. Schedule 4 of the Health Act 2009 amends TAPA to make sections 6(1) and 8(1) of TAPA applicable in Scotland only. The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Brandsharing) Regulations 2004, which were issued under TAPA and apply in the UK, prohibit brand sharing and reverse brand sharing. Scotland issued the following regulations under TAPA: 1) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Specialist Tobacconists) (Scotland) Regulations 2004, which regulate advertising in specialist tobacconist shops in Scotland, and 2) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Point of Sale) (Scotland) Regulations 2004, which have since been repealed.

The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 (“TPMS”) applies in Scotland only. The Sale of Tobacco (Display of Tobacco Products and Prices etc.) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 prohibit the display of tobacco products and tobacco advertising at most points of sale.  These regulations also regulate incidental and requested display of tobacco products and display of tobacco product prices in retail shops. Other regulations issued under the TPMS Act 2010 include: 1) The Sale of Tobacco (Display of Warning Statements) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (regulating signs regarding sales to minors); 2) The Sale of Tobacco (Registration of Moveable Structures and Fixed Penalty Notices) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (regulating registration of tobacco retailers); and 3) The Sale of Tobacco (Prescribed Documents) (Scotland) Regulations 2013.

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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