Pubs are bracing themselves for a fresh crackdown on noise levels emanating from people smoking outside after councils were issued new guidance on how to deal with noise complaints.
Environmental health experts have issued new guidance to councils in a bid to crackdown on noise complaints from smoking shelters and beer gardens.
Since the smoking ban was introduced there has been a "rising tide" of noise complaints, according to regulatory body Lacors.
Brighton and Hove City council has seen complaints rise from one to 60 in a year while most councils are now reporting complaints in double figures.
The new guidance sets out the powers available to deal with the problem of noise instead of using statutory nuisance powers, which it claims is not always effective.
The guidance suggests using the Noise Act 1996, under which licensees can be given an on the spot £500 fine and could also be prosecuted and fined up to £20,000 if they fail to comply after a warning.
Lacors also suggests using the Licensing Act to deal with premises. It suggests imposing licensing conditions such as door supervisors or barring re-entry after a certain time.
The guidance even sets out how councils can use the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 to take action against public disorder offences with the help of the police if necessary.
"Smokefree pubs, clubs and restaurants have proved a big hit with the public but it has also led to an increase in noise complaints to councils from local residents," said Lacors chairman Geoffrey Theobald.
"Councils have a number of options open to them so it's good news that they now have a one-stop-shop for advice on dealing with noise from licensed premises.
"Councils are committed to putting local people first and will use every tool at their disposal to make sure residents can enjoy peace and quiet in their own homes.
"Noise levels in our towns and cities are rising so it's good news that many councils are already working closely with pubs and clubs in their area so they can address any noise problems before enforcement action is needed."