Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us



Would Banning Glass From Bars Curb Violence?

• October 17, 2013 • 6:00 AM


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, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 31 • 4:00 PM

Should the Victims of the War on Drugs Receive Reparations?

A drug war Truth and Reconciliation Commission along the lines of post-apartheid South Africa is a radical idea proposed by the Green Party. asks their candidates for New York State’s gubernatorial election to tell us more.

October 31 • 2:00 PM

India’s Struggle to Get Reliable Power to Hundreds of Millions of People

India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known as a “big thinker” when it comes to energy. But in his country’s case, could thinking big be a huge mistake?

October 31 • 12:00 PM

In the Picture: SNAP Food Benefits, Birthday Cake, and Walmart

In every issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.

October 31 • 10:15 AM

Levels of Depression Could Be Evaluated Through Measurements of Acoustic Speech

Engineers find tell-tale signs in speech patterns of the depressed.

October 31 • 8:00 AM

Who Wants a Cute Congressman?

You probably do—even if you won’t admit it. In politics, looks aren’t everything, but they’re definitely something.

October 31 • 7:00 AM

Why Scientists Make Promises They Can’t Keep

A research proposal that is totally upfront about the uncertainty of the scientific process and its potential benefits might never pass governmental muster.

October 31 • 6:12 AM

The Psychology of a Horror Movie Fan

Scientists have tried to figure out the appeal of axe murderers and creepy dolls, but it mostly remains a spooky mystery.

October 31 • 4:00 AM

The Power of Third Person Plural on Support for Public Policies

Researchers find citizens react differently to policy proposals when they’re framed as impacting “people,” as opposed to “you.”

October 30 • 4:00 PM

I Should Have Told My High School Students About My Struggle With Drinking

As a teacher, my students confided in me about many harrowing aspects of their lives. I never crossed the line and shared my biggest problem with them—but now I wish I had.

October 30 • 2:00 PM

How Dark Money Got a Mining Company Everything It Wanted

An accidentally released court filing reveals how one company secretly gave money to a non-profit that helped get favorable mining legislation passed.

October 30 • 12:00 PM

The Halloween Industrial Complex

The scariest thing about Halloween might be just how seriously we take it. For this week’s holiday, Americans of all ages will spend more than $5 billion on disposable costumes and bite-size candy.

October 30 • 10:00 AM

Sky’s the Limit: The Case for Selling Air Rights

Lower taxes and debt, increased revenue for the city, and a much better use of space in already dense environments: Selling air rights and encouraging upward growth seem like no-brainers, but NIMBY resistance and philosophical barriers remain.

October 30 • 9:00 AM

Cycles of Fear and Bias in the Criminal Justice System

Exploring the psychological roots of racial disparity in U.S. prisons.

October 30 • 8:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Email Newsletter Writer?

Noah Davis talks to Wait But Why writer Tim Urban about the newsletter concept, the research process, and escaping “money-flushing toilet” status.

October 30 • 6:00 AM

Dreamers of the Carbon-Free Dream

Can California go full-renewable?

October 30 • 5:08 AM

We’re Not So Great at Rejecting Each Other

And it’s probably something we should work on.

October 30 • 4:00 AM

He’s Definitely a Liberal—Just Check Out His Brain Scan

New research finds political ideology can be easily determined by examining how one’s brain reacts to disgusting images.

October 29 • 4:00 PM

Should We Prosecute Climate Change Protesters Who Break the Law?

A conversation with Bristol County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Sam Sutter, who dropped steep charges against two climate change protesters.

October 29 • 2:23 PM

Innovation Geography: The Beginning of the End for Silicon Valley

Will a lack of affordable housing hinder the growth of creative start-ups?

October 29 • 2:00 PM

Trapped in the Tobacco Debt Trap

A refinance of Niagara County, New York’s tobacco bonds was good news—but for investors, not taxpayers.

October 29 • 12:00 PM

Purity and Self-Mutilation in Thailand

During the nine-day Phuket Vegetarian Festival, a group of chosen ones known as the mah song torture themselves in order to redirect bad luck and misfortune away from their communities and ensure a year of prosperity.

October 29 • 10:00 AM

Can Proposition 47 Solve California’s Problem With Mass Incarceration?

Reducing penalties for low-level felonies could be the next step in rolling back draconian sentencing laws and addressing the criminal justice system’s long legacy of racism.

October 29 • 9:00 AM

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Brain

Neuroscientists find less—but potentially stronger—white matter in the brains of patients with CFS.

October 29 • 8:00 AM

America’s Bathrooms Are a Total Failure

No matter which American bathroom is crowned in this year’s America’s Best Restroom contest, it will still have a host of terrible flaws.

Follow us

Levels of Depression Could Be Evaluated Through Measurements of Acoustic Speech

Engineers find tell-tale signs in speech patterns of the depressed.

We’re Not So Great at Rejecting Each Other

And it's probably something we should work on.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Brain

Neuroscientists find less—but potentially stronger—white matter in the brains of patients with CFS.

Incumbents, Pray for Rain

Come next Tuesday, rain could push voters toward safer, more predictable candidates.

Could Economics Benefit From Computer Science Thinking?

Computational complexity could offer new insight into old ideas in biology and, yes, even the dismal science.

The Big One

One town, Champlain, New York, was the source of nearly half the scams targeting small businesses in the United States last year. November/December 2014

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