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

September 2 • 4:00 AM

Why Middle School Doesn’t Have to Suck

Some people suspect the troubles of middle school are a matter of age. Middle schoolers, they think, are simply too moody, pimply, and cliquish to be easily educable. But these five studies might convince you otherwise.


September 2 • 3:13 AM

Coming Soon: When Robots Lie


September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

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