15.3 Opposition to and weakening of smokefree environment legislation

15.3.1 The ventilation debate

Technology cannot control tobacco smoke to minimal levels for workers or customers without a 'tornado-like level of ventilation' (p5).1 The tobacco industry strongly pursued the 'ventilation option' for many years, through various forums and in arguments to governments about appropriate management of secondhand smoke (SHS).2, 3

In Australia, Philip Morris used Healthy Buildings International to advocate ventilation solutions to SHS exposure in workplaces. Healthy Buildings International publicly denied its association with the tobacco industry. Healthy Buildings International breached Standards Australia protocols in providing Philip Morris with confidential public submissions made to a review of the Australian standard on ventilation and acted as an undeclared cipher into the review for Philip Morris's concerns, leading to the eventual dismissal of the Healthy Buildings International representative from the standards sub-committee.4

15.3.2 The economic impact of smokefree policies

The tobacco industry has claimed on many different occasions throughout the world that banning smoking in dining and licensed premises measures would lead to a 30% or greater decline in sales.5 During the lead-up to the introduction of legislation mandating smokefree licensed premises in New South Wales, the Australian Hotels Association made 'wildly exaggerated economic predictions' about the likely effect of a smoking ban (p679).6

Documents released as part of settlements of legal action between state attorneys general and tobacco companies in the US suggest that the tobacco industry has attempted to influence the debate on smokefree policies by enlisting the aid of the hospitality sector3–5 on numerous occasions in other jurisdictions internationally.

'The tobacco industry has effectively turned the hospitality industry into its de facto lobbying arm on clean indoor air. Public health advocates need to understand that, with rare exceptions, when they talk to organised restaurant associations they are effectively talking to the tobacco industry and must act accordingly' (p94).5

Objective indicators of economic impact include sales tax receipts and revenues, employment, and the number of restaurant and bar licenses issued by state health departments and liquor authorities. Studies analysing these sorts of indicators have generally found no evidence of negative economic impacts.7,8

A 2003 review examined the discrepancies between tobacco industry and non-industry funded research on the economic effects of smokefree policies.7 It found that more than 90% of studies supported by the tobacco industry concluded there was a negative economic impact, while studies not supported by the industry found no such impact. No peer-reviewed study found an adverse economic impact of smokefree laws on restaurants and bars. Of the studies that used objective indicators and controlled appropriately for underlying economic trends, none detected a negative economic impact. The reviewers concluded that 'policymakers can act to protect workers and patrons from the toxins in secondhand smoke confident in rejecting industry claims that there will be an adverse economic impact' (p13).7 Subsequent to the 2003 review, two of the authors continued to compile findings of studies examining the economic impact of smokefree policies in the hospitality industry. The pattern of results has been maintained.9

In 2009 a scientific panel of the International Agency for Research on Cancer systematically examined the evidence concerning the economic effects of smokefree policies on the hospitality industry and concluded the evidence is sufficient that such bans have no negative impact.10

15.3.3 The 'enclosed spaces' loophole

Because smoking was initially mostly banned within enclosed areas of dining and licensed premises, there emerged a need to precisely define the term 'enclosed'. There is a great deal of variability across states. In the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and New South Wales the definition of 'enclosed' means a structure that has an overhead covering or a roof and is 75% enclosed. In South Australia, the threshold is 70%. In Western Australia, a structure that has a roof and is 50% enclosed around its sides is considered to be enclosed. In Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria the term 'substantially enclosed' has been used and no specific percentage has been specified. In Victoria, smoking is only permitted in a roofed outdoor dining or drinking area if the walls are less than 75% enclosed.

In practice this meant that attractive and sheltered areas were built by clubs, pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in order to accommodate smokers when legislative changes occurred. Given that researchers have shown that SHScan reach dangerous levels in these sorts of crowded areas,11 hospitality workers in most states were not fully protected by 'enclosed' smoking bans.

During the debate to enact smokefree legislation in New South Wales, the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield Evans MP expressed his frustration with the 'enclosed' loophole: 'the regulation definition to allow areas almost 75% enclosed to be defined as not enclosed—which will allow smoking to continue—will fail to protect workers or patrons, including gamblers, from the well-known, seriously harmful effects of second-hand smoke ... No-smoking indoors should mean no smoking indoors'(p21501).12

Smoking is now restricted in outdoor dining or drinking areas in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. In remaining jurisdictions (New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria) the 'enclosed spaces' loophole remains a problem.

Relevant news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here (Last updated June 2024)


1. Repace J. Can ventilation control second-hand smoke in the hospitality industry? An analysis of the document 'Proceedings of the workshop on ventilation engineering controls for environmental tobacco smoke in the hospitality industry'. sponsored by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists 2000 Available from: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/tobacco/documents/FedOHSHAets.pdf">

2. Bialous S and Glantz S. ASHRAE standard 62: tobacco industry's influence over national ventilation standards. Tobacco Control 2002;11(4):315–28. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/4/315

3. Drope J and Chapman S. Tobacco industry efforts at discrediting scientific knowledge of environmental tobacco smoke: a review of internal industry documents. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2001;55(8):588–94. Available from: http://jech.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/55/8/588

4. Chapman S and Penman A. 'Can't stop the boy': Philip Morris' use of Healthy Buildings International to prevent workplace smoking bans in Australia. Tobacco Control 2003;12(suppl. 3):iii107–12. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/12/suppl_3/iii107

5. Dearlove JV, Bialous SA and Glantz SA. Tobacco industry manipulation of the hospitality industry to maintain smoking in public places. Tobacco Control 2002;11(2):94–104. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/2/94

6. Champion D and Chapman S. Framing pub smoking bans: an analysis of Australian print news media coverage, March 1996–March 2003. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2005;59(8):679–84. Available from: http://jech.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/59/8/679

7. Scollo M, Lal A, Hyland A and Glantz S. A review of the quality of studies on the economic effects of smoke-free policies on the hospitality industry. Tobacco Control 2003;12:13–20. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/12/1/13

8. Eriksen M and Chaloupka F. The economic impact of clean indoor air laws. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2007;57(6):367–78. Available from: http://caonline.amcancersoc.org/cgi/content/abstract/57/6/367

9. Scollo M and Lal A. Summary of Studies Assessing the Economic Impact of Smoke-free Policies in the Hospitality Industry – includes studies produced to January 2008. Melbourne, Australia: VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control, 2008. Available from: http://www.vctc.org.au/tc-res/Hospitalitysummary.pdf

10. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Evaluating the effectiveness of smoke-free policies. Handbooks of cancer prevention, tobacco control, Vol 13. Lyon, France: IARC, 2009. Available from: http://com.iarc.fr/en/publications/pdfs-online/prev/handbook13/

11. Klepeis N, Ott W and Switzer P. Real-time measurement of outdoor tobacco smoke particles. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 2007;57(5):522–34. Available from: http://tobaccosmoke.org/files/private/Klepeis_etal_OTS_Preprint.pdf

12. Chesterfield-Evans A. Smoke-free Environment Act: Disallowance of Smoke-free environment amendment (enclosed regulations) regulation 2006. 28 March: 21501–4, Hansard Legislative Council of NSW, 2006. Available from: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hanstrans.nsf/V3ByKey/LC20060328/$File/531lc174.pdf