A Co Antrim farmer who was allegedly observed smoking in his parked tractor could be fined up to £1000 by the council.
According to the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), the farmer was parked off the road at a filling station when a tobacco control officer from Antrim and Newtownabbey Council claimed to observe him smoking in a commercial vehicle capable of carrying more than one person.
The UFU said that this “was deemed to break smoking in the workplace regulations,” and that the owner of the tractor, who is also a contractor, has been ordered to give the name of the person smoking, or face a fine of up to £1000.
UFU Deputy President, Barclay Bell said the move seemed to be taking the Northern Ireland Smoking Order (2006) to extreme lengths.
He commented: “At one level this is a bizarre and even funny example of excessive red tape, defining a tractor as capable of carrying more than one person.”
“It is difficult to understand that in the same month we are being told the public sector has insufficient funds to improve road safety by cutting back hedges and verges in rural areas–yet a local council can afford someone to watch a tractor parked safely off the public road.
“Regardless of where you stand on smoking, in tough financial times it is justifiable to ask whether this is the best possible use of time and money.”
The UFU said that notice was served on its member detailing the tractor’s registration, the time and location and warning of potential fines.
This was accompanied by a two-page form to disclose full details of the tractor, the person driving it and the tax status of the John Deere agricultural tractor. The UFU called the incident “a warning to farmers that they cannot escape red tape, even in their tractor or off the public road.”
A spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council told The Times: “Under The Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, it is against the law to smoke in work vehicles used by more than one person. A tractor is classed as a work vehicle. Investigations are still ongoing at this stage and no fines or fixed penalties have been issued.”