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Open Access Research article

The impact of partial smokefree legislation on health inequalities: Evidence from a survey of 1150 pubs in North West England

Karen Tocque1, Richard Edwards2* and Brenda Fullard3

Author Affiliations

1 North West Public Health Observatory, Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, North Street, Liverpool, L3 2AY, UK

2 Evidence for Population Health Unit, Division of Epidemiology and Health Sciences, Stopford Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK

3 South Sefton Primary Care Trust, 3 rd Floor Burlington House, Crosby Road North, Waterloo, Liverpool L22 0QB, UK

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BMC Public Health 2005, 5:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-5-91

Published: 1 September 2005



The UK government claims that between 10 and 30% of pubs and bars will be exempt from proposed legislation to achieve smokefree enclosed public places across England. This arises from the contentious inclusion that pubs and bars that do not prepare and serve food and private members clubs, will be able to allow smoking. We aimed to survey pubs and bars across the North West of England to assess smoking policies and the proportion and variations by deprivation level of venues preparing and serving food.


We carried out a telephone survey of 1150 pubs and bars in 14 local authorities across the North West of England. The main data items were current smoking policy, food preparation and serving status, and intention to change food serving and smoking status in the event of implementation of the proposed English partial smokefree legislation.


29 pubs and bars (2.5%) were totally smoke-free, 500 (44%) had partial smoking restrictions, and 615 (54%) allowed smoking throughout. Venues situated in the most deprived quintiles (4 and 5) of deprivation were more likely to allow unrestricted smoking (62% vs 33% for venues in quintiles 1 and 2). The proportion of pubs and bars not preparing and serving food on the premises was 44% (95% CI 42 to 46%), and ranged from 21% in pubs and bars in deprivation quintile 1 to 63% in quintile 5.


The proportion of pubs and bars which do not serve food was far higher than the 10–30% suggested by the UK government. The proportion of pubs allowing unrestricted smoking and of non-food venues was higher in more disadvantaged areas, suggesting that the proposed UK government policy of exempting pubs in England which do not serve food from smokefree legislation will exacerbate inequalities in smoking and health.