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Home \Legislation by Country \Northern Ireland \  Summary
Last updated: April 9th 2015


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: Rotating text-only warnings are required to cover 30 percent of the front of the package, and rotating combined picture and text warnings are required to cover 40 percent of the back of the package. Warnings must be enclosed by a border, which brings the total size of the warning area to 43 percent of the front surface and 53 percent of the back surface. Misleading packaging and labeling, which could include terms such as “light” and “low tar” and other signs, is prohibited. Plain packaging of tobacco products is currently not required, although the United Kingdom government has initiated the process of developing a plain packaging policy. 

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 the Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale) (Safety) Regulations 2002, which were amended by the Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale) (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 to require picture warnings. These regulations are issued under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, which makes it an offense to fail to give information required for a specific good.

Review Status

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

The materials and analysis available at this website are for informational and educational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.