OBJECTIVE: To measure the level of compliance among businesses with legislation prohibiting smoking in public places. DESIGN: A representative sample of businesses in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was selected. A two-phase survey design was used: in phase 1, interviewers observed business premises to evaluate their compliance with the legislation, observing the display of no-smoking signs and noting any evidence of smoking in smoking-prohibited areas; in phase 2, a short questionnaire was completed by the business owner or manager. SETTING: Observations of business premises and self-completion interviews with owners or managers of those premises. SUBJECTS: 938 respondents who were either owners, managers, or employees of ACT businesses. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Compliance with legislation prohibiting smoking in the public areas of business premises; businesses' own perceptions of the extent of their compliance; and the factors affecting the discrepancy between actual and perceived compliance. RESULTS: A total of 22% of the businesses complied fully with the legislation, whereas 56% partially complied by displaying external or internal signage. Most respondents (84%) believed that they were complying fully with the legislation. Only 21% of the businesses complied and correctly assessed their compliance. Evidence of smoking was detected in only 5% of no-smoking premises. The type of business and the smoking policy of the establishment at the time the legislation came into force were important influences on compliance, followed by whether the premises were free-standing or located within shopping malls. The mass media was identified as the main source of information about the legislation. CONCLUSIONS: Ensuring the successful implementation of non-smoking legislation is facilitated by (a) widespread publicity to make business proprietors and their customers and clients aware of the legislation; (b) first implementing legislation in premises where there is strong public support for such measures; and (c) targeting information to premises that have pre-existing policies prohibiting smoking on their premises.
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