Councils prepare smokefree force ahead of July 1st

In collaboration with the Press Association

Thousands of council officers across England are being trained to enforce smokefree legislation ahead of its launch on July 1st.

The council officers are being trained in a £9.5 million project so that police are not diverted from their normal duties to ensuring the legislation is enforced.

Officers will have the power to levy on-the-spot £50 fines and take court action against businesses which do not ensure their premises are smokefree.

Businesses will be liable for £200 fines if they do not display warning messages and fines of up to £2,500 if they do not enforce the rules.

Ian Gray of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and head trainer for the council courses told the BBC that he expected a "softly, softly approach" at first.

"But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that," he added.

Officers will be empowered to gather evidence by filming and taking photos of breaches of the law, although Mr Gray said this would not be appropriate in all cases.

The experience of Scotland, which launched its own smokefree legislation last year, suggests most businesses will comply with the rules.

Just 11 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the past ten months and many councils have not had to use the powers at all.