Bristol smoothly implements smoking ban 10 years ago

Bristol is one of the largest cities in the South West of England with a diverse mix of businesses and communities shaping the landscape. Despite these differences, the council was able to smoothly implement the smoking ban a decade ago, which was warmly received by the vast majority.  

smoking outside 

Bristol gets prepared

John Conrad, Higher Environmental Health Officer for Bristol City Council, works in the Health and Safety department and was charged 10 years ago to lead the team responsible for introducing the smoking ban in Bristol. 

Implementing the ban was always going to be a significant challenge due to the size and the diversity of local businesses and population. As a result, the council invested in the necessary resources and John was supported with extra man-power, including two officers from the health protection unit. 

Now leading a team of four, John and the team began a significant programme of engagement in the months leading up to the first day of the new regulations. This was to ensure both businesses and the general public were aware when the smoking ban would start and what their respective responsibilities would be. 

For businesses, including retail, offices and factories, John and the team sent letters and no-smoking signs and stickers to more than 3,000 premises. Most businesses welcomed the upcoming ban but the council did receive complaints from the licensee trade – pubs in the main, especially those that purely sold alcohol – as they feared losing their business and livelihoods. 

John also made sure the team engaged with local councillors to further secure political support. Every single councillor was sent an information pack and John arranged for consultation sessions in every ward to further explain what was going to happen when the ban was fully implemented. 

And to help reach out to local communities, the council closely involved the local media, with John conducting multiple interviews on TV, Radio and with local newspapers. 

Successful implementation

On the day when the ban came in, John and the team complemented everything they had done leading up to 1 July by leading an enlarged team of 20, visiting commercial premises across the city to reinforce the messages around the new regulations. 

John Conrad said that on the first day of the ban the now larger team visited hundreds of premises with a commercial letterbox. 

“By the end, we had conducted the most amount of visits in a single day than the council had ever managed before in any public health campaign in Bristol,” said John Conrad. 

 “In the immediate days after ban there was a general acceptance that the new regulations had come in and were here to stay, especially from non-smokers. This helped with the smooth implementation and the smoking ban has on the whole been a great success.” 

One contributory factor to the ban’s success that John has put forward is that the legislation is self-policing, whereby people are now empowered, with the full weight of the law behind them, to ask people to stop smoking in public spaces.   


Despite these successes, the council experiences some challenging areas. For example, people who drive commercial vehicles – self-employed lorry workers, coach drivers and taxi drivers – think that because they’re out on the road and not in the office, they are independent and therefore the regulations do not apply. This is far from the case and John has issued Fixed Penalty Notices to those who flout the regulations. 

Shisha bars have also proved to be a challenge as they are often unlicensed, secretive and proprietors think the act of smoking shisha is a cultural tradition and should be protected from the regulations. Further complications arise due to the health risks associated with a lack of ventilation and an excessive amount of fumes and burning coals, impacting on both the smokers and those who work in the premises. 

One incident saw John visit an unlicensed shisha bar unannounced through a tip off. The owner complained that shisha bars weren’t consulted with before the ban was introduced and this bar should be protected for cultural reasons. The business owner even attempted to secure the support of a local councillor. Thankfully, the proprietor’s protest was ignored and the bar was forced to close down. 

John Conrad said: “The battle with smoking in public places has not completely gone away. For example, it would be positive to see initiatives to move smokers further away from entrances to commercial premises, although admittedly this could be difficult to enforce. 

“Nonetheless, we should be very proud of all our achievements that we have done something positive in removing a real menace to public health.” 



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