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Qualitative bar study

A pre- post- ethnographic case study in a cross-section of community bars to explore compliance with the legislation, and attitudes and behaviour of staff and customers to the legislation.

A collaboration between: the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, University of Stirling and The Open University, the Centre for Applied Social Psychology, University of Strathclyde, and the Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire.

Principal Investigator: Professor Gerard Hastings

Lead Investigator: Douglas Eadie

Study aims

  • Explore compliance with the smoke-free legislation within a cross-section of community bars in Scotland.
  • Explore how bar workers and customers from across the social spectrum received and responded to the new measures (implementation and impact) over the 12 months following the ban on smoking.
  • Examine changes in attitudes and smoking behaviour by bar customers and bar workers in relation to smoking, smoking restrictions and the cultural contexts in which smoking (and drinking) takes place following the implementation of the ban.

Study design

  • Pre- post-design, ethnographic case study combining unobtrusive, non-participant observation and in-depth interviews, conducted in eight community bars selected from three contrasting communities. They study communities were selected to provide a mix of private and local authority housing, different levels of deprivation, different smoking norms and prevalence, and contrasting urban and rural environments.
  • Individual and paired interviews were conducted with proprietors and bar counter staff over three phases, and with a cross section of customers over two stages, to provide multiple perspectives on the implementation and impact of the legislation at a community level. Data collation from cohort of bar customers/workers/managers pre- and post-implementation of smoke-free legislation.
  • Additional interviews took place with local stakeholders responsible for enforcing the legislation and for responding to requests for help in quitting in the study communities.
  • Covert, non-participant observations to examine compliance and enforcement, and to assess reliability of qualitative interview.
  • Air sampling for PM2.5.

Research instruments and protocols

Main outcomes


Knowledge of the implementation date was relatively high, but there were some misconceptions about the scope of the legislation.

  • There was scepticism about the extent to which the law would be enforced.
  • Smoking status was the strongest predictor of support for the legislation; younger smokers and non-smokers viewed the legislation more positively than older smokers who associated smoking with drinking; personal dislike of smoking was a stronger indicator of support than health protection.
  • Preparation for the ban was higher, and discussions more prominent, in affluent areas.


  • All study bars attempted to enforce the ban, with very high public awareness of the law, concerns about licensee liability and perceptions that the legislation had been ´imposed´ upon the licensed trade - all helping staff to challenge customer violations.
  • Having outdoor drinking areas to which smokers could be directed also facilitated enforcement.
  • Instances of non-compliance were thought largely to be unintentional. The majority were attributed to attention lapses or absent-mindedness - typically by older customers and customers under the influence of alcohol, or lack of awareness among customers from outside Scotland.
  • However, in bars located in deprived communities, compliance was lower and there was less support for the legislation than in more affluent communities.
  • Nevertheless, all bar staff attempted to enforce legislation with fear of prosecution cited as the main motive for enforcing the ban.
  • Interestingly, knowledge of enforcement process, fines and personal liability was often poor, with most study participants overestimating the financial value of fines.

Updated 21st July 2014

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