The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has attempted to quell fears that the advent of smoke-free legislation this summer in England will introduce "undercover anti-smoking police".
As preparation for the smoking ban in public places from 1 July, the Department of Health (DoH) has provided £29.5m over two years for English local authorities to train council staff to manage the ban.
Ian Gray, policy officer for the CIEH and chief trainer for the Government course, said that while he expected most councils would take a "softly, softly approach" at first, "there will be some occasions where action has to be taken, and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that".
"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence, although this may not be appropriate in many cases," he said.
This led to reports that the CIEH training course would create 1,200 "smoking police", instructed to go undercover at premises, issuing on-the-spot fines of £50.
This was described by the British Beer & Pub Association as "heavy-handed and elaborate" in comparison with the light-touch enforcement used in Scotland.
However, in a subsequent joint statement with the DoH, the CIEH said: "It is not, and has never been, the intention that the smoke-free legislation be enforced in this way."
The institute stressed that it was up to councils how they used the funding from Government, which could be put towards education and support for businesses as well as additional funds for street cleaning.
By Chris Druce
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