A Co. Antrim farmer could be facing a fine of up to £1,000 after he was found smoking in his tractor, which was deemed to break smoking in the workplace regulations.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says that a notice from the ‘tobacco control officer’ of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council claims the farmer was ‘observed’ by an official smoking in a commercial vehicle capable of ‘carrying more than one person’.

The owner of the tractor, who the UFU says is also a contractor, has been ordered to give up the name of the person smoking or face a fine of up to £1,000.

UFU Deputy President, Barclay Bell, said this seemed to be taking the Northern Ireland Smoking Order (2006) to extreme lengths.

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.

Bell said however that this has raised more serious issues.

“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,” he said.

The notice was served on a UFU member, detailing the registration number of the tractor, setting out the time and location and warning of potential fines.

It says that the notice also enclosed a two-page form to disclose full details of the tractor, the person driving it and the tax status of what was very clearly a John Deere agricultural tractor.

The UFU says this is a warning to farmers that they cannot escape red tape, even in their tractor or off the public road.