Early engagement key for successful implementation of smoking ban in Birmingham

A decade on and Birmingham City Council can say it successfully implemented the smokefree regulations introduce in July 2007 thanks to early engagement and the effective use of central Government funding.  

 Birmingham taxi v2  

Experienced EHP leads the way 

10 years ago, Janet Bradley was an Area Manager for Birmingham City Council and was tasked with taking a lead role in implementing the smoking ban in Britain’s second city. 

A member of the environmental health team, Janet was the ideal candidate having had experience of implementing smokefree initiatives, as well as working with NHS-based taboo control leads. 

A year before the ban came into effect, the council received central government funding to conduct a comprehensive campaign to educate and engage with businesses and the public. This was to ensure everyone knew the changes to the law and what was expected in a smokefree future. 

To kick things off, Birmingham council employed additional staff to ensure there were enough people to engage with all the various stakeholder groups covering business forums, community groups, NHS staff and business interest groups. 

Support packs were then produced, which were tailored for local businesses, explaining the regulations, why they were coming in and effective ways to implement them within their business. 

The information packs also included useful ideas on what to do once the regulations were implemented, such as how to deal with smokers – both customers and employees – and where they could smoke, smoking policy templates and providing advice for smokers to access cessation services. 

At all points the council was keen to ensure that businesses viewed the new regulations as a public health benefit, playing down that it was a ban. 

Janet and her newly bolstered team then went on a comprehensive campaign to visit all licensed businesses in the area, in particular dropping in on those in Birmingham’s various city centres with both daytime and night-time economies. The environmental health team also met with larger businesses, such as the MailBox, Bullring and the various sports stadiums in the city, to explain their new responsibilities. 

But it wasn’t just businesses and licensed premises that were proactively visited as the council also met people with responsibilities for public institutions and their estate management teams. 

Other activities conducted by the council in the lead up to the smoking ban included providing resources on the local authority’s website, a new enforcement strategy, and new public-facing posters and leaflets to be placed in prominent positions, such as bus stops and billboards. 

Birmingham City Council also went on a substantial media campaign, taking part in a plethora of broadcast interviews and newspaper articles in order to help spread the word about the new regulations. 

Education was key to success  


Birmingham poster 



Janet Bradley said that looking back now, it was encouraging to see how much information and support businesses were given – all for free. 

“On the day the new regulations came into effect, the team went on another round of visits to engage with communities and businesses,” said Janet. 

“It was more about educating people, rather than issuing fines to those who may have broken the new rules, and on the whole it was a smooth implementation. Even the smoking community didn’t really have a problem with what we were doing.” 

Following the initial phase of the new regulations, the council was able to report a 98% compliance rate and where the remaining 2% thought the legislation didn’t apply to them, they soon became compliant. This high compliance rate lasted for several years. 

Changing landscapes  

However, in the immediate aftermath of the new regulations, Birmingham council did experience some issues around plans being submitted to the council to build smoking shelters for employees and the public. 

Designers were pushing the boundaries as to what constituted the regulated 50% covering and in response, Janet and her team worked with the NHS, LACORS and CIEH to interpret the new regulations, providing considered advice to businesses.   

The transport sector also remained a problem area for the local authority. In the ensuing years, Janet and her team, in co-operation with the licensing department, had to continually remind taxi drivers of the new regulations and ensure they had access to the right information. The council also worked with the head offices so that they could remind their delivery drivers they couldn’t smoke in the vehicles as they were considered as places of work. 

People also continued to smoke on local buses and Janet and the team partnered with the bus companies to educate the passengers as well as reminding the drivers of their new responsibilities. 

Shisha bars are a growing industry in the UK today but back when the ban first came in a decade ago, their presence was relatively unknown. The council first became aware three days after the new regulations came in that there was going to be a problem with shisha bars and 10 years on, they now take up the majority of Janet and her colleagues’ time.  

The problem with shisha bars is that they are often non-compliant with a whole host of regulations, they open without any planning consent or becoming licensed, and the owners tend to be oblivious to the health impacts on both their customers but also their employees. 

To help tackle these problems, the council has adopted multi-agency partnerships, implemented a mixture of enforcement and education tactics to tackle the worst offenders, and have taken part in a West Midlands-wide health campaign to educate local people about the health risks of smoking shisha. 

Lessons learnt  

Janet said: “10 years on and the implementation of the smoking regulations in 2007 was largely a success. We were greatly helped by the additional funding as this enabled us to engage with local communities and businesses long before the ban came into effect. 

“Culturally as well we have changed a lot. I lecture at the university and when I use the smoking regulations as a case study, the students simply cannot imagine a time where you could light-up in a pub, restaurant or hotel. I watch their faces and they are astounded.” 

She added: “However, there will always be a need to educate people about their responsibilities. In some cases, businesses saw this as a tick-box exercise and not something that was a continual process. With food businesses, for example, we’ve now had to include checks around smoking in a standard food safety inspection.”  






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