A qualitative analysis of compliance with smoke-free legislation in community bars in Scotland: implications for public health

Douglas Eadie, Derek Heim, Susan MacAskill, Alastair Ross, Gerard Hastings, John Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Aim To explore compliance with the smoke-free legislation within a cross-section of community bars in Scotland. Design Ethnographic case study combining unobtrusive observation and in-depth interviews conducted pre- and post-introduction. Setting Eight Scottish community bars in three contrasting study communities. Participants Ten bar proprietors, 16 bar workers and 44 customers. Measurements Observations and participant reports of compliance over the first 12 months of the smoking ban. Findings All eight study bars endeavoured to enforce the ban, but with varying enthusiasm. Compliance varied, with violations more prevalent in those bars serving deprived communities. Most violations occurred in peripheral areas and generally went unchallenged. Six bars reported some form of complicit behaviour with staff and customers smoking together, either in the entrance area or during ‘lock-ins’ when access to the bar was restricted to regular customers. Three factors were particularly important to explaining variance between bars: smoking norms, management competency and management attitudes towards the ban. The first and last were related to social disadvantage. Conclusions Official data provide only a crude assessment of compliance in licensed premises. Data from this study offer a detailed picture of the nature and levels of compliance, and suggest a need for more sophisticated surveillance methods, greater enforcement and use of prosecutions where merited, and targeted support for bars serving deprived communities to help ensure that the major gains already achieved are retained and built upon. It is also suggested that acceptance of the smoke-free legislation could be enhanced by complementary initiatives targeting support to smokers in deprived communities. Those planning to introduce smoke-free legislation need to set in place these measures in advance in order to realize the benefits of full compliance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019 -1026
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • legislation
  • poverty
  • qualitative research
  • Scotland
  • tobacco smoke pollution
  • work-place


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