Open Access Research article

Before and after study of bar workers' perceptions of the impact of smoke-free workplace legislation in the Republic of Ireland

Lisa Pursell1*, Shane Allwright2, Diarmuid O'Donovan1, Gillian Paul2, Alan Kelly2, Bernie J Mullally3 and Maureen D'Eath1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Promotion, National University of Ireland, Galway, Republic of Ireland

2 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Trinity College Centre for Health Sciences, AMNCH, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Republic of Ireland

3 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork, Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, Cork, Republic of Ireland

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:131  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-131

Published: 29 June 2007



Objectives: To compare support for, and perceptions of, the impacts of smoke-free workplace legislation among bar workers in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) pre- and post-implementation, and to identify predictors of support for the legislation.


Setting: Public houses (pubs) in three areas of the ROI.

Design: Comparisons pre- and post-implementation of smoke-free workplace legislation.

Participants: From a largely non-random selection, 288 bar workers volunteered for the baseline survey; 220 were followed up one year later (76.4%).

Outcome measures: Level of support for the legislation, attitude statements concerning potential impacts of the law and modelled predictors of support for the legislation.


Pre-implementation 59.5% of participants supported the legislation, increasing to 76.8% post-implementation. Support increased among smokers by 27.3 percentage points from 39.4% to 66.7% (p < 0.001) and among non-smokers by 12.4% percentage points from 68.8% to 81.2% (p = 0.003).

Pre-legislation three-quarters of participants agreed that the legislation would make bars more comfortable and was needed to protect workers' health. Post-legislation these proportions increased to over 90% (p < 0.001). However, negative perceptions also increased, particularly for perceptions that the legislation has a negative impact on business (from 50.9% to 62.7%, p = 0.008) and that fewer people would visit pubs (41.8% to 62.7%, p < 0.001). After adjusting for relevant covariates, including responses to the attitude statements, support for the ban increased two to three-fold post-implementation. Regardless of their views on the economic impact, most participants agreed, both pre- and post-implementation, that the legislation was needed to protect bar workers' health.


Smoke-free legislation had the support of three-quarters of a large sample of bar workers in the ROI. However, this group holds complex sets of both positive and negative perspectives on the legislation. Of particular importance is that negative economic perceptions did not diminish the widely held perception that the ban is needed to protect workers' health.