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 limited exceptions to the ban. Specifically, smoking is permitted in designated rooms for use by those 18 years and older in hotels, guesthouses, care homes, adult hospices, and mental health units.
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.
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.
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 Health Act 2006 governs many aspects of public health, including tobacco control. With respect to tobacco control, the Act regulates smoking in public places, workplaces, and public transport. The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) Regulations 2007 were issued under the authority of the Health Act 2006 and regulate smoking in enclosed and substantially enclosed public places, workplaces, and work vehicles. Also issued under the Health Act 2006, the Smoke-free (Penalties and Discounted Amounts) Regulations 2007 set penalties for smoking violations. The Smoke-Free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 prohibit smoking in enclosed private vehicles in which children are present.
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. (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 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. Three sets of regulations were adopted in 2012 – (1) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display) (Wales) Regulations 2012; (2) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Specialist Tobacconists) (Wales) Regulations 2012; and (3) The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Display of Prices) (Wales) Regulations 2012. These regulations revoked, in relation to Wales, the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Point of Sale) Regulations 2004 and the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Specialist Tobacconists) Regulations 2004.
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.
This country’s legal measures were reviewed by our legal staff in consultation with in-country lawyers or tobacco control experts.