Smoking Ban in American and British Bars and Pubs

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Various countries have enacted smoke free laws to protect people from the impacts of second hand smoke and United States of America and the Great Britain have not been left behind. These laws cite scientific evidence to assert that smoking of cigarettes is harmful to both the smokers and inhalers of the smoke emitted by the smokers. Apart from protecting people from health effects of secondary smoke, these laws are also meant to reduce health care costs, improve workplace performance and to promote economic growth in the country by creating a healthy and attractive community (Fulton, 1994). Smoking restrictions are also meant to reduce risks of fire, to improve cleanliness in public places and also to create healthier environments. Studies have found that in the workplace, non smokers who inhale secondary smoke have are highly likely to suffer from lung cancer though they do not smoke because they are exposed to the same level of carcinogen as the smokers (Bartoshe & Pope, 1999). Some studies have also claimed that second hand smoke contains more carcinogens than the smoke inhaled by the smokers meaning that the non smokers are at a higher risk of contracting nicotine related diseases than the smokers themselves. That is why smoking bans have been imposed in public places to protect the non smoking public from second hand smoke emitted by the smokers in public places.

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This paper will focus on how restaurants and pubs in United Kingdom and United States of America are coping with the smoking ban. The paper will start by explaining what smoking ban entails citing several legislations that have enacted to support the ban. The paper will then shift its focus to the impact on smoking ban on sales revenue in pubs and on customer turnover in these two countries before looking at how various pub and restaurants owners have modified their property to apply the smoking ban (Bartoshe & Pope, 1999).

What is a smoking ban?

A smoking ban is a public policy that encompasses criminal laws and safety regulations that disallow smoking of cigarettes in the workplace or in public places. According to these policies smoking is intake, carrying or possession of any lit tobacco products that may pose health and safety challenges to the possessors of these products and third parties that may be affected by the cigarette smoke (Cairney, 2009). Smoking bans which are also referred to as smoke free laws are meant to bring down the demand for tobacco products by creating a situation where intake of these products becomes increasingly difficult. Smoking ban policies are supported by tax measures, cessation measures and public awareness campaigns that are meant to lower the levels of smoking in the society through change of human behaviour by ensuring that people change from the unhealthy smoke addictive behaviours towards healthy living styles (Glantz, 1994). The earliest smoking ban law was enacted in Mexico in the 16th century but the first modern law against tobacco consumption was imposed by the Nazi regime in 1941. In the United States of America, Minnesota was the first state to enact a smoking ban through the Clean Indoor Air Act which required restaurants to have separate smoking sections; however pubs selling alcohol were exempted from the ban (Durham, 2000). The clean Indoor Air Act was renamed the freedom to breath act in 2007 and this imposed a ban on smoking encompassing both bars and restaurants. San Luis Obispo city in California became the first city in America to impose an all encompassing smoking ban and the success of this city has encouraged more cities in United States of America to impose the ban on tobacco consumption in public places. In UK, Ireland was the first to effect the ban in 2004 but the whole of the UK became subject to the ban in 2007 after England created an anti smoking legislation.

What smoking ban entails

Smoking bans entail prohibition of smoking of tobacco in public places such as the workplace, car parks, pavements, restaurants, pubs, sports, recreational facilities and institutions of learning. This ban does not extend to private properties like homesteads. The purpose of the smoking ban is to improve air quality in public places by reducing the levels of respirable suspended particles created by second hand smoke. Second hand smoke is a dangerous pollutant that affects the non consumers of tobacco products and the smoking bans are the best interventions that can decrease exposure to second hand smoke (Durham, 2000). Smoking ban does not require smokers to quit smoking altogether; it requires them to be responsible smokers who do not affect the non smoking community. This is why the ban advocates creation of no smoking zones in various public establishments to protect the public from second hand smoke. The smoking ban comes along with strict penalties aimed at punishing those who defy the anti smoke laws (Durham, 2000). The smoking ban also carries incentives aimed at reducing the levels of tobacco consumption because the ban is also aimed at protecting the smokers themselves from the effects of nicotine (McNabb, 2004). That is why anti smoking policies are supported by education and awareness measures that are aimed at changing the behaviour of the smokers. In some countries advertising of tobacco products is prohibited by the smoking ban policies and tobacco companies are not allowed to sponsor public events like sports.


United Kingdom has the strictest tobacco control legislations in Europe. Its legislations are even stricter than the legislations enacted by Ireland (Bertrand, 2000). These legislations go beyond the requirements of the European commission green paper. The UK legislations on smoking ban policies entail prohibition of smoking in public places, control of prices of tobacco products, ban on advertising of tobacco products and health warning requirements (Coarse, 1999). Though the smoking ban legislations were separately by the four governments, they all resemble the Irish legislations enacted in 2004. In the USA, there are no federal smoking regulations and each state has its own smoking policies. 37 states has enacted smoking regulations so far with New York, California, Minnesota , Illinois and Texas having the most stringent smoking regulations.

Effects of smoking ban on sales revenue

There are various scholars who have published reports on the economic impact of the smoke free legislations and some of these reports have indicated that the ban has not affected businesses negatively. However, bar and restaurant associations in United Kingdom and United States of America have documented that there is a significant effect of the legislations especially on pubs sales volumes and profits. In Dallas for example, alcohol sales declined by more than 50 percent leading to a loss of $12 million in revenue after the ban was imposed (Durham, 2000). In New York alone, the city lost more than 28.5 million dollars in wages after more than 2000 people lost their jobs while the bars and restaurants in the city lost a cumulative sum of more than $38 million (Glantz, 2007). In United Kingdom, when the ban was imposed between 2006 and 2007, pubs reported massive losses in revenue especially in Wales where smoking levels were considerably high. The Licensed Victuallers Association, representing Welsh pub owners complained that pubs in the region lost more than 30 percent of their sales revenue less than eight months after the ban and this had led to the closure of some establishment due to dwindling business fortunes. According to the British Beer and Pub association, a body representing breweries and pub operators across Great Britain, the smoking ban has really affected beer sales across the country and the sales revenues hit their lowest point ever in British history immediately after the smoking ban policies were enacted (Glantz, 1994). According to the BBPA, smoking bans hurt alcohol sales because revellers cannot smoke and drink alcohol at the same time (McNabb, 2004). Since the revellers are not prohibited from smoking in their private homes, they tend to buy beer and drink it at home as they smoke or they end up spending fewer hours in the pub which translates into less consumption of alcohol within pubs and bars. Pubs also make a significant amount of revenue from sale of tobacco products to their revellers which mean that the smoking ban also affects the volumes of tobacco products sold by the pubs and restaurants (Glantz, 1994).

In America, the situation is the same. The pub had become the central point of American life where families and friend used to enjoy their drinks comfortably as they smoke but this has been disrupted by the smoking ban. Cities like New York, Washington, Dallas and Chicago that have stringent anti smoking legislations have seen their pub industries suffer losses of revenue because of the absence of smoking drinkers in the pubs ( McNabb,2004).

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However, it is important to note that the effects on sales revenue for the pubs are not the same as restaurants. Pubs are drinking joints meaning that they derive most of their revenue from sale of alcohol and alcohol related products while restaurants are bigger establishments which offer a variety of products and services other than alcohol (Cairney, 2009). This means that the smoking ban has actually affected the revenues of restaurant positively because the ban has made the restaurants more conducive for the non smoking community. Reports from New York City confirm that restaurants have become safer places for families to hang out, eat and drink and restaurants in the city have actually recorded increased income due to the high number of non smoking patrons visiting the establishments for recreation (Scollo et al 2000). This means that smoking used to restrict a certain population from frequenting restaurants. Data from the department of finance indicates that the amount of money spent in New York restaurants has gone up by more than 20 percent since the ban was effected and this increase is attributed to the high number of non smoking patrons that have been spending a considerable amount of time in New York restaurants since the smoking ban regulations were enacted.

Effects of the smoking ban on customer turnover

While looking at the effects of the smoking ban on customer turnover, it is important to separate bars from restaurants because the ban has had two contrasting effects on the two entities. To start with the number of customers frequenting pubs and bars has decreased significantly since the smoking ban was imposed. To start with, most smokers are drinkers and the pub has for a long time been the perfect place for friends to meet and drink as they smoke cigarettes (Buck, 2009). The smoking ban that covers public establishments such as pubs and restaurants therefore inconveniences revellers who have to move to secluded places away from the general public to smoke (Sciacca, 2000). Instead of suffering the discomfort of drinking and smoking in separate places, most people prefer to meet in private establishments like homes or private gardens instead of visiting the bars and most of the drinks and cigarettes they consume are usually bought from the neighbourhood shops or supermarkets (Bartosch, 2009). The result is that the number of people that frequent bars and pubs has gone down since they have private alternatives where they can drink and smoke without being restricted by the smoking ban.

However, the case is different for restaurants because the smoking ban has cleaned up the restaurants making them more conducive for families and other non smoking patrons. Presence of smokers used to restrict the numbers that frequented the restaurants to eat, drink and relax. Since the smoking ban was affected in both UK and USA, restaurants have recorded higher number of patrons and sales revenue from food and other non alcoholic drinks has also gone up (Glantz, 1997).

Properties changes to apply it

Properties that house restaurants and bars have made changes in order to apply the smoking ban. The restaurants have designated private areas where their patrons can smoke and these areas are meters away from the general public. Other restaurants have created separate sections for their smoking and the non smoking patrons ensuring that the smoking sections are well ventilated to protect the patrons from the respirable suspended particles.


Smoking ban regulations in the United Kingdom and United States of America have received support and criticism from the public in equal measure (McNabb, 2004). Though the smoking ban regulations are meant to protect the people from adverse effects of tobacco and the second hand smoke, there are sections of the general public that feel that the ban is not economically viable since it has led to massive losses of revenue as smoking patrons stay away from pubs and restaurants. However, it is important to note that the amount of money used in health care and treatment for the victims of tobacco smoking far outweighs the millions that the pubs generate from the sale of alcohol and tobacco to smokers (Adams, 2007).

Furthermore, it has been documented that the smoking ban has actually boosted business for the restaurants because it has enabled them to attract millions of non smoking patrons who spend their money on other products apart from alcohol and tobacco. Pubs need to design their property; to create rooms for smokers and non smokers in separate sections and this will enable them to lure back their smoking clientele who had been locked out of these establishments by the enactment of the smoking ban.


Adams, S. (2007).The Effect of Smoking Bans on Bars and Restaurants: An Analysis of Changes in Employment. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy: Vol.7. 1- 12.

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Bartoshe, W., Pope, G. (1999).The Economic Effect of Smoke-free Restaurant Policies on Restaurant Businesses in Massachusetts. Journal of Public Health Management Practices : 5(1), pp. 53-62.

Bertrand, M. (2000). How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates? Quarterly Journal of Economics: 119(1), pp. 249-75.

Cairney, P. (2009).The role of ideas in policy transfer: The case of UK smoking bans since devolution. Journal of European Public Policy. 16: 471–488.

Coarse, R.H (1999). The Problem of Social Costs. Journal of Law and Economics, 73(1), pp. 1-44.

Dunham, J. (2000). The Effects of Smoking Laws on Seating Allocations of Restaurants, Bars, and Taverns. Economic Inquiry: 38(1), pp. 151-157.

Dunham, J. (2000).. Smoking Laws and Their Differential Effects on the Restaurants, Bars, and Taverns. Contemporary Economic Policy : 18(3),pp. 326-333.

Glantz, S. (1994).The Effects of Ordinances Requiring Smoke-free Restaurants on Restaurant Sales. American Journal of Public Health, 1994: 84(7), pp. 1081- 1085.

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Glantz, S. (1997).The Effects of Ordinances Requiring Smoke-free Restaurants and Bars on Revenues: A Follow Up.” American Journal of Public Health, 1997: 87(10), pp. 1687-1693.

McNabb,J. V. (2004), The smoking debate: a look at the issues surrounding smoking bans in restaurants. Hospitality Research Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 27-38.

Sciacca, J. (2000).Prohibiting Smoking in Restaurants: Effects on Restaurant Sales. American Journal of Health Promotion: 12(3), pp. 176-184.

Scollo, M., Lal, A., Hyland, A., Glantz, S.(2000).Review of the Quality of Studies on the Economic Effects of Smoke-free Policies on the Hospitality Industry.” Tobacco Control : 12, pp. 13-20.

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