Research Portfolio

Funding Opportunities

Join our Mailing List
Join our mailing list to be notified of new funding opportunities.

Your Email

To receive information about funding opportunities, events, and program updates.

Implementation of California AB 13: smoking ban in bars

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Lisa Bero, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 1998 (Cycle 7) Grant #: 7RT-0180 Award: $315,181
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Recently, California experienced an advance in tobacco control policy--Assembly Bill 13 (AB 13). The bill prohibits smoking in the workplace and was extended to bars, taverns and gaming clubs on January 1, 1998. This smoking ban protects Californians from secondhand smoke, as well as discourages tobacco use. Despite the intentions that underlie the spirit of AB 13, compliance with the letter of this law has been an enforcement challenge.

We will study how AB 13 is being implemented in bars, especially the process by which California localities develop enforcement procedures. We will interview and collect relevant documents from three types of people involved in this effort: bar owners; local government officials involved in developing and deploying enforcement procedures; and lobbyists working for or against the smoking ban in bars.

We have three main research aims. The first is to determine variability in compliance, that is, why and how some bar owners voluntarily comply with the law, while other resist the implementation of AB 13. We plan to sample bars throughout the state of California to get a representative sample of sites that vary by the type of area in which the bar is located (e.g., urban, suburban, rural), the type of patrons the bar caters to (e.g., tourists, locals, commuters), the type of owner of the premises (e.g., national chain, small business, family operated), the previous experience the bar owner has had with smoking bans (e.g., local ordinances versus none), and the type of local agency responsible for enforcement (e.g., health agency, local police department, etc.).

We will also explore the process by which local governments enforce the law. AB 13 is unique in that it does not specify one state-wide standard of enforcement, but instead lets each local elected governing body decide who to entrust with the authority to enforce AB 13. We will study how the local governments throughout the state of California solve the thorny problem of enforcing the smoking ban in bars.

Furthermore, we will study the resistance to, or support of, the smoking ban in bars mounted by interest groups. For example, the tobacco industry attempted to delay the extension of smoking bans to bars, taverns and gaming clubs, while voluntary organizations, such as Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, have rallied in support of AB 13.

This project intersects with TRDRP's priority issues in that research that furthers our understanding of how and why tobacco control policies work will hopefully guide future policy decisions. AB 13 is worthy of study because it is flagship legislation that ensures that all Californians will be free from the harmful effects of involuntary smoking.

Final Report
In 1995 California AB13, prohibiting smoking in enclosed workplaces, took effect. In 1998 the smoking ban was extended to bars. We studied the implementation and enforcement of the smoking ban in bars by determining the variability in compliance among bar employers; exploring enforcement at the local level; and describing activist efforts to support implementation. We are interviewing three sets of respondents: a random sample of bar owners (to date N=28); enforcement officials (N=30); and tobacco control activists (N=12). We conducted a content analysis of transcriptions of interviews and coded them in an ongoing, iterative process to capture recurrent themes.

When the workplace smoking ban went into effect, most employers voluntarily complied. The bar owners claimed they were in compliance, but with further discussion it became clear that they did not mean 100% compliance 100% of the time. Often they made exceptions, such as letting patrons smoke after 10 p.m., during special events, or in designated areas of the bar. The consequences on non-compliance were minimal: fines were relatively low and enforcement lax.

Many localities had not been faced with the task of having to enforce this state law until it was extended to bars. Local government often lacked resources for enforcement. Enforcement efforts were slow to be initiated, and typically, over time, the responsibility for enforcement was passed from one local agency to another.

Voluntary organizations generated and maintained visibility for, and public support of, the law. Volunteers intervened and repaired breakdowns in the enforcement process, e.g.: initiating a writ of mandamus against a city for failure to enforce; educating and counseling district attorneys and judges to ensure their follow-through in prosecuting labor code violators; and case finding to recruit individuals with disabilities for test cases. In contrast, those who worked Proposition 99-funded programs are prohibited from engaging in enforcement activities, therefore, were limited to using health education approaches that did not appear to be as effective in facilitating compliance.

Reduction in exposure to ETS and the consequent cancer and heart disease will only be realized if the smoking ban in bars is successfully implemented. This study has implications for future legislation in terms of:

Compliance: Health education models may not work with intransigent entrepreneurs such as bar owners. Activists should address bar owners’ fear that compliance will threaten profit, and raise their awareness of possible financial liability from workers’ compensation suits. Enforcement: The AB13 experience demonstrates a need for tobacco control legislation to clearly delegate and delineate enforcement mechanisms.