Objective: To evaluate compliance with a legislative ban on smoking inside restaurants by comparing smoking in Sydney restaurants (where it is legally banned) with smoking in Melbourne restaurants (not subject to a legal ban).
Design and participants: Unobtrusive observational study of restaurant patrons, and interviews with restaurant staff, carried out by 159 volunteers.
Setting: 78 Sydney restaurants with smoke-free indoor environments (as required by legislation) and 81 Melbourne restaurants not subject to legislation preventing smoking. The study took place from 20-31 October 2000.
Intervention: Legislation to ban smoking in indoor areas of restaurants was introduced in New South Wales in September 2000 (about six weeks before our study).
Outcomes: Observed incidents of smoking inside restaurants; staff attitudes to the ban; customer satisfaction as indicated by comments to staff; staff perceptions of restaurant patronage.
Results: No restaurant patrons were seen smoking in 78 Sydney restaurants during 156 hours of observation of 2,646 diners, compared with 176 smokers among 3,014 Melbourne diners over 154 hours of observation. Thirty-one per cent (24/78) of Sydney restaurants had experienced smokers attempting to smoke indoors after the legislation was introduced; 6% (5/78) reported instances of smokers refusing to stop smoking when asked; 79% (62/78) of restaurants had received favourable comments from patrons about the smoke-free law; 81% (63/78) of restaurant staff interviewed either supported or strongly supported the law. Since introduction of the legislation, 76% of restaurants reported normal trade, 14% increased trade, and 9% reduced trade.
Conclusions: Smoke-free restaurants do not require "smoking police" to enforce bans, present few ongoing difficulties for staff, attract many more favourable than unfavourable comments from patrons, and do not adversely affect trade.