The BBC has is facing the wrath of anti-smoking campaigners after Jeremy Clarkson and James May were seen lighting pipes on Sunday’s Top Gear.

The incident took place during an item making fun of car merchandise, during which all three presenters pulled out pipes filled with herbal tobacco. Richard Hammond, who has recently given up smoking, did not light up, but Clarkson and May did.

Clarkson was then seen putting the wrong end of the pipe in his mouth before running off the set of the show, filmed at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey.

A spokeswoman for Action On Smoking On Health (Ash) said that smoking in a studio was “illegal” – following the ban on smoking in public places in England which was brought in in July – and that the BBC should apologise.

“There are no exceptions,” she said. “You cannot smoke in a public place. This isn’t covered by artistic integrity.”

“Producers should be reminded of the law, and make sure they abide by it.”

However, the BBC’s spokeswoman said only a couple of viewers had complained.

“We are very upfront about the style and tone of the show, so viewers know what to expect,” she told the BBC News website.

“There were no complaints from members of the audience present during the filming.”