Undercover Officers to Smoke Out Offenders

Government gives councils £30m to enforce no-smoking ban

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The government has announced it is granting £30m to London’s councils to enable them to enforce the smoking ban in public places across their authorities.

Intended to raise awareness about the somewhat confusing rules, the money can also be used to pay for council officers who will be able to issue on-the-spot £50 fines to people and take court action against premises if they defy the law. These officers will be able to enter premises undercover and capture photographic evidence of contraventions.

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health's Ian Gray, said, "Most councils will take a softly, softly approach at first. But there will be some occasions when action has to be taken and I am sure the officers will not shy away from that.

"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can film and photograph people to gather evidence although this may not be appropriate in many cases."

An Ealing Council spokeswoman said, "The council has been given funding from the Department of Health to support the implementation and enforcement of new smokefree legislation.

"The funding will be used to provide information and support to Ealing businesses and residents, and to support ongoing enforcement action after the new laws take effect on 1 July.

"Our primary focus will be building awareness to ensure both businesses and patrons are aware of their responsibilities.

"The council's environmental health officers and other regulatory officers will make routine visits to local businesses, support owners to comply, and take action against any who continue to flout the law.

"The law gives the council the power to issue on-the-spot fixed penalty notices to smokers caught breaking the law and designated compliance officers are likely to take on this role.

"We have no plans or intentions to employ undercover wardens to police the smoking ban by filming or photographing smokers."

Hounslow Council did not response to our request for clarification about how their funding will be spent.


March 1, 2007