Menus Subscribe Search
bar-glass

(PHOTO: STOCKCREATIONS/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Would Banning Glass From Bars Curb Violence?

• October 17, 2013 • 6:00 AM

(PHOTO: STOCKCREATIONS/SHUTTERSTOCK)

New research from Australia says it’s not that simple.

Alcohol, anger, and glass objects make for a dangerous cocktail. Though it’s not a common term in American media, Commonwealth news media often use the word “glassing” to describe attacking someone with a drinking glass or glass bottle. Glass attacks are often sudden, set off by a drunken temper. But they have lasting effects: Glassing can cause heavy bleeding, permanent injury, scarring, and, because the weapons most often land on the victim’s head, facial disfigurement or blindness. (Google-image-searching for this term is really not recommended.)

According to a 2010 Daily Mail article about glassing, there were at that time 87,000 glass attacks a year in the U.K., all of which cost the national health system there £2.7 billion, with a B. Those statistics were provided to support an effort by some bars to curb this type of violence, by experimenting with special “shatter-proof” pint glasses made by layering glass and resin. British politicians have also tried to ban glass products altogether in bars with particularly violent reputations. The danger of broken glass—either purposeful or accidental—is why many stadiums and clubs in the U.S. have switched over to aluminum bottles.

Following a 2008 ban on glass from “high-risk licensed premises” after midnight in some parts of Australia, there was a noticeable drop in glassing attacks in those areas.

Australia, too, has taken many public and proactive steps in preventing glassing. In response to a spate of glass attacks there in the past several years, tempered glass that “crumples” rather than shatters has became popular in bars and hotels in Western Australia. In 2011, an Australian liquor licensing minister gave his prediction to the Courier-Mail that all Queensland pubs would be glass-free in 10 years: “You can never guarantee any licensed premise, or indeed any home will ever be incident-free, but it’s what is a reasonable action in the circumstances,” said Paul Lucas. “Sooner or later, insurers will start to insist on it because sometimes assaults in hotels are followed by civil action.”

Queensland, in northeastern Australia, has been at the center of debate about whether enforcing bans against glass in establishments that sell alcohol would help reduce alcohol-related violence. But a new study out this week, the first to collect and analyze data on “glassing” injuries in emergency rooms, suggests that it’s not such a simple equation.

The research, conducted by Queensland health researchers and emergency room specialists and published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, included data about violent assaults from 1999 to 2011. The findings that were perhaps not surprising were that most attacks overwhelmingly involved men rather than women, and that the parts of the body that were most often hurt were the head and face. What was perhaps surprising was that, for all of the media and political attention on glassing, injuries from a glass object only made up a small portion (nine percent) of all alcohol-related violence.

On the other hand, the “violence” as defined in this study included verbal altercation, which presumably would be the largest portion of confrontations, with only a smaller percentage actually escalating to physical injury. The authors also mentioned that, following a 2008 ban on glass from “high-risk licensed premises” after midnight in some parts of Australia, there was a noticeable drop in glassing attacks in those areas. There has also been a steady decline in glassing overall since 2007, when shatterproof glass, aluminum, and plastic came more into fashion.

So, it’s complicated. Glass bans won’t necessarily reduce all drunken violence, since glassing only makes up a small part of it. Nor would they prevent glassing or other types of alcohol-related assaults that occur in the home—both of which, the study points out, occur more frequently at home than in public.

But if it can reduce glassing even a little bit, why shouldn’t bars switch to plastic, or the resin-backed shatterproof glasses described above? Sure, plastic cups are a little tacky, but so are bar fights, so violence-prone pubs can’t really make that argument. Maybe they should try it out. As an added bonus, that Daily Mail piece about the twin-walled pints also notes that the safer material keeps beer colder for longer.

Lauren Kirchner
Lauren Kirchner is the Web editor of The Baffler. She has written for the Columbia Journalism Review, Capital New York, Slate, The Awl, The Hairpin, and many others. Follow her on Twitter @lkirchner.

More From Lauren Kirchner

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

July 23 • 4:00 PM

Who Doesn’t Like Atheists?

The Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.


July 23 • 2:00 PM

We Need to Start Tracking Patient Harm and Medical Mistakes Now

Top patient-safety experts call on Congress to step in and, among other steps, give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wider responsibility for measuring medical mistakes.


July 23 • 12:19 PM

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.


July 23 • 12:00 PM

Why Do We Love the ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ Game?

It’s easy enough to turn yourself into a virtual celebrity, complete with fame and mansions—but it will likely cost you.


July 23 • 11:49 AM

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.


July 23 • 10:00 AM

Outing the Death-Drug Distributors

Calling all hackers: It’s time to go Assange on capital punishment.


July 23 • 8:00 AM

The Surprising Appeal of Products That Require Effort to Use

New research finds they enable consumers to re-establish a feeling that they’re in control of their lives.



July 23 • 6:00 AM

How the Other Half Lifts: What Your Workout Says About Your Social Class

Why can’t triathletes and weightlifters get along?


July 23 • 5:02 AM

Battle of the Public Intellectuals: Edward Glaeser vs. Richard Florida

On gentrification and housing costs.


July 23 • 4:00 AM

Our Fear of Immigrants

Why did a group of fourth graders rally in support of an undocumented classmate while the citizens of Murrieta, California, tried to stop immigrant children from entering their town?


July 22 • 4:00 PM

Can Meditation Really Slow Aging?

Is there real science in the spiritualism of meditation? Jo Marchant meets a Nobel Prize-winner who thinks so.



July 22 • 2:00 PM

The Alabama Judge Who Refuses to Let Desegregation Orders Go Ignored

A federal judge in Alabama says a local school board has failed to meet legal mandate to integrate.


July 22 • 12:00 PM

On the Destinations of Species

It’s almost always easier to cross international borders if you’re something other than human.


July 22 • 10:51 AM

The Link Between Carbs, Gut Microbes, and Colon Cancer

Reduced carb intake among mice protected them from colon cancer.


July 22 • 10:47 AM

Irrational Choice Theory: The LeBron James Migration From Miami to Cleveland

Return migrants to Cleveland have been coming home in large numbers for quite some time. It makes perfect sense.


July 22 • 9:32 AM

This Time, Scalia Was Right

President Obama’s recess appointments were wrong and, worse, dangerous.


July 22 • 8:00 AM

On Vegas Strip, Blackjack Rule Change Is Sleight of Hand

Casino operators are changing blackjack payouts to give the house an even greater advantage. Is this a sign that Vegas is on its way back from the recession, or that the Strip’s biggest players are trying to squeeze some more cash out of visitors before the well runs dry?


July 22 • 6:00 AM

Label Me Confused

How the words on a bag of food create more questions than answers.


July 22 • 5:07 AM

Doubly Victimized: The Shocking Prevalence of Violence Against Homeless Women

An especially vulnerable population is surveyed by researchers.


July 22 • 4:00 AM

New Evidence That Blacks Are Aging Faster Than Whites

A large study finds American blacks are, biologically, three years older than their white chronological counterparts.



July 21 • 4:00 PM

Do You Have to Learn How to Get High?

All drugs are socially constructed.


July 21 • 2:14 PM

The New Weapon Against Disease-Spreading Insects Is Big Data

Computer models that pinpoint the likely locations of mosquitoes and tsetse flies are helping officials target vector control efforts.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.

The Link Between Carbs, Gut Microbes, and Colon Cancer

Reduced carb intake among mice protected them from colon cancer.

The New Weapon Against Disease-Spreading Insects Is Big Data

Computer models that pinpoint the likely locations of mosquitoes and tsetse flies are helping officials target vector control efforts.

People Are Clueless About Placebos

Doctors know that sometimes the best medicine is no medicine at all. But how do patients feel about getting duped into recovery?

The Big One

Today, the United States produces less than two percent of the clothing purchased by Americans. In 1990, it produced nearly 50 percent. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.