THOUSANDS of council officers will patrol bars, restaurants and shops to police the smoking ban when it comes into force in July, it was reported today.
Councils have been granted £29.5m to pay for staff, who will be able to issue on-the-spot £50 fines to people and take court action against premises if they flout the law.
A BBC investigation found that the officers will be able to sit among drinkers undercover and photograph and film people.
A Government-funded course is expected to train 1,200 council employees in the next few months, followed by more later.
Ian Gray, policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the Government course, said: "I expect most councils will take a softly, softly approach at first.
"But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the officers will not shy away from that.
"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises. They can even film and photograph people to gather evidence, although this may not be appropriate in many cases."
In Nottingham, there will be about 30 officers patrolling the city, including new staff and existing environmental health officers.
The council is also exploring the possibility of getting street wardens, who now help the police, to help ensure the ban is enforced.
Steve Dowling, director of environment and public protection at Nottingham Council, said: "We have about 100 wardens and they could see whether people are smoking in pubs as they go about their other duties."
He said checks would also be made on premises such as garages and shops, as well as pubs and restaurants.
In Liverpool there will be a core team of about 20 to 25 staff, although around 200 staff are expected to patrol the city in the first few days after the ban.
Liverpool Council official Andy Hull said: "We want to make our presence felt from the start. While we will probably just issue warnings on the first day, we won't be afraid of making an example of people or businesses if they try to make a stand."
Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, said the scheme would be a waste of public money. He added: "The idea of getting public officials to snoop on people is distasteful and disproportionate."
A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said the plan was "heavy handed and elaborate".