Implementation of a workplace smoking ban in bars: the limits of local discretion

BMC Public Health. 2008 Dec 8;8:402. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-402.


Background: In January 1998, the California state legislature extended a workplace smoking ban to bars. The purpose of this study was to explore the conditions that facilitate or hinder compliance with a smoking ban in bars.

Methods: We studied the implementation of the smoking ban in bars by interviewing three sets of policy participants: bar employers responsible for complying with the law; local government officials responsible for enforcing the law; and tobacco control activists who facilitated implementation. We transcribed the interviews and did a qualitative analysis of the text.

Results: The conditions that facilitated bar owners' compliance with a smoking ban in bars included: if the cost to comply was minimal; if the bars with which they were in competition were in compliance with the smoking ban; and if there was authoritative, consistent, coordinated, and uniform enforcement. Conversely, the conditions that hindered compliance included: if the law had minimal sanctions; if competing bars in the area allowed smoking; and if enforcement was delayed or inadequate.

Conclusion: Many local enforcers wished to forfeit their local discretion and believed the workplace smoking ban in bars would be best implemented by a state agency. The potential implication of this study is that, given the complex nature of local politics, smoking bans in bars are best implemented at a broader provincial or national level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking* / economics
  • California
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Middle Aged
  • Policy Making
  • Qualitative Research
  • Restaurants / economics
  • Restaurants / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Smoking / economics
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Social Control Policies*
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Workplace / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Workplace / organization & administration