Objectives: To describe the range of restaurant smoking regulations in the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and to analyse the level of protection from secondhand smoke exposure guaranteed by these regulations.
Design: We obtained the local restaurant smoking regulations for each town, analysing them in terms of the protection of restaurant workers, bar workers, and adult and youth restaurant customers.
Main outcome measure: The percentage of restaurant patrons and workers and bar workers who are protected from secondhand smoke exposure by the current smoking regulations in Massachusetts.
Results: As of June 2002, 225 towns had local restaurant smoking regulations. Of these, 69 (30.7%) do not allow smoking in restaurants, 10 (4.4%) restrict smoking to adult only restaurants, 64 (28.4%) restrict smoking to enclosed, separately ventilated areas, and 82 (36.4%) restrict smoking to areas that need not be enclosed and separately ventilated. Of the 174 towns that, at a minimum, restrict smoking to bar areas or separately ventilated areas, 35 (20.1%) allow variances. Overall, 60 towns, covering only 17.7% of the population, completely ban smoking in restaurants. As a result, 81.3% of adult restaurant customers, 81.2% of youth customers, 82.3% of restaurant workers, and 87.0% of bar workers are not guaranteed protection from secondhand smoke in restaurants.
Conclusions: Despite the widespread adoption of local restaurant smoking regulations in Massachusetts, the majority of restaurant customers and workers remain unprotected from secondhand smoke exposure. In light of this, public health practitioners must stop compromising the protection of customers and workers from secondhand smoke exposure in restaurants.