Antrim and Newtownabbey Council has claimed that a “tobacco control officer” observed the driver of the vehicle in breach of the Northern Ireland Smoking Order (2006).

The tractor is being treated as “a commercial vehicle capable of carrying more than one person.”

Under the smoking in the workplace regulations, it is only permissible to smoke in vehicles that are primarily used for private purposes. There is a fixed penalty of £50 for the person in breach of regulations, which can be reduced to £30 if paid in 15 days.

The contractor who owns the tractor has been ordered to give the council the name of the person who was smoking or face or a maximum fine of £1,000 if prosecuted and convicted by a court.

The notice from the council was given to the contractor, stating the tractor registration, the time and location of the incident and a warning of potential consequences. A two page form for details of the driver, the tractor and its tax status was also included for completion.

Ulster Farmers Union deputy president Barclay Bell described the incident as taking the regulations to extreme lengths and an example of excess red tape for farmers. He also questioned the council’s use of resources on this issue, given recent announcements of cut backs on cutting hedges and verges on rural roads.

“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.