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The inertia of self-regulation: a game-theoretic approach to reducing passive smoking in restaurants


  • Shiell, Alan
  • Chapman, Simon


Two alternate regulatory approaches can be used to reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in workplaces. The first is voluntary, self-regulation introduced by management, which is supported by common law and occupational health legislation that emphasises the employers' 'duty of care'. The second is public health legislation that bans smoking outright in enclosed places. In Australia, self-regulation has succeeded in restricting tobacco smoking in most indoor workplaces but has been a relative failure in the hospitality industry. Claims that this reflects consumer preference by diners, club and hotel patrons are not backed by survey evidence, typically showing large majority support for non-smoking establishments. Insights from game theory show why reliance on the duty of care is unlikely to succeed even when establishment operators collectively support a non-smoking policy. Using plausible assumptions about the net costs of unilaterally introducing smoking restrictions, what makes good sense for society as a whole is likely to be the least profitable option for an individual operator acting alone. Operators find themselves in the classic prisoner's dilemma. If the aim of policy is to restrict smoking in public places in order to protect the health of employees then game-theory predicts that public health legislation banning smoking in enclosed places will be more effective than self-regulation and reliance on the duty of care.

Suggested Citation

  • Shiell, Alan & Chapman, Simon, 2000. "The inertia of self-regulation: a game-theoretic approach to reducing passive smoking in restaurants," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1111-1119, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:51:y:2000:i:7:p:1111-1119

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(3), pages 565-591, September.
    2. Ettner, Susan L., 1996. "New evidence on the relationship between income and health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 67-85, February.
    3. Godfrey, Leslie G & McAleer, Michael & McKenzie, Colin R, 1988. "Variable Addition and LaGrange Multiplier Tests for Linear and Logarithmic Regression Models," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(3), pages 492-503, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jan, Stephen, 2003. "A perspective on the analysis of credible commitment and myopia in health sector decision making," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 269-278, March.
    2. von Engelhardt, Sebastian & Maurer, Stephen, 2012. "Industry Self-Governance and National Security: On the Private Control of Dual Use Technologies," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 66052, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.


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