Banning Beer Glasses in Pubs

Not beer, just the glasses:

The Home Office has commissioned a new design, in an attempt to stop glasses being used as weapons.

Official figures show 5,500 people are attacked with glasses and bottles every year in England and Wales.

The British Beer and Pub Association said it did not want the new plastic glasses to be made compulsory.

I don’t think this will go anywhere, but the sheer idiocy is impressive. Reminds me of the call to ban pointy knives. That recommendation also came out of the UK. What’s going on over there?

Posted on August 27, 2009 at 1:44 PM110 Comments


Maneesh August 27, 2009 1:55 PM

Why did the attackers attack?
Because they lost their cool.

Why did they lose their cool?
Because they were drunk.

So ban alcohol and not beer glasses.

Shane August 27, 2009 1:59 PM

What indeed. The UK is sinking into idiocy on a massive scale, and we’re not far behind (actually we’re well in advance in some areas).

This kills me too. I remember in high school, right after the Columbine shootings, they banned the little plastic butter knives they would offer during lunch/breakfast, infuriating the students by forcing them to use little plastic spoons for spreading anything onto anything else, or cutting (to the extent that the knives even perform this operation).

This, obviously, is an absolute act of pure lunacy, considering every student is required have, on hand, at least one #2 pencil, and one ballpoint pen, both of which make far greater weapons than the silly plastic butter knives, by many orders of magnitude.

To cap it off, my best friend was expelled during Junior year, for absent-mindedly toying with a tiny (we’re talking less than a square inch in total surface area) black plastic gun, the kind you get out of a quarter machine, akin to the accessory one would get when purchasing a 3-5 inch tall action figure.

I, myself, was expelled two days before graduation for having in my possession (read: in a bundle of pencils, pens, and tortillons held together with a rubber band) an exacto knife, issued to me by my art teacher for use in a class I was currently enrolled in.

The idiocy and paranoia know no bounds, especially when policy is driven by mindless nubs.

This certainly falls into that category.

Tanuki August 27, 2009 2:01 PM

Welcome to the Nanny State UK: where sharp edges on anything are banned, and running-with-scissors gets you a year in jail. Hell, I live (or rather, try to exist) in this soft-edged child-friendly nobody-can-ever-be-hurt, everyone-must-have-prizes Government-is-your-friend mess. It’s deeply, deeply sad to see my fellow countrymen falling for this sort of paternalist nonsense.

EdT. August 27, 2009 2:12 PM

Would it be too un-PC to suggest that maybe they have a mad-cow disease epidemic running rampant in the Home Office?


mdb August 27, 2009 2:15 PM

I have been to more than a couple bars in the US that do this voluntarily – 2 did only after 10pm.

Of course this is not a one size fit all government solution, but individual bar owners have obviously found this to be a solution to the weapon problem.

weewillywinky August 27, 2009 2:28 PM

All I can say is thank God they aren’t banning beer GOGGLES or I would never get laid.

Sinnyo August 27, 2009 2:29 PM

Some of the more club-like pubs in my hometown have adopted this measure. I no longer drink there. Apart from the suggestion that plastic cups means a less-than-appealing fellow clientèle, it makes the cider taste awful.

Banning smoking was a good measure. A blanket ban on something everybody relies on to enjoy a pub will keep people inside their homes and kill the pub industry. It’s already cheaper to buy booze at a supermarket – few in their right minds are likely to shell out for more expensive drinks, served in an inferior manner.

Adam August 27, 2009 2:30 PM

The UK is not a free country. That’s what’s going on. It may be a quasi-democracy, but it is not free. Laws cannot grant (only recognize) and the people cannot give up such inalienable rights as the right to keep and bear arms. But, the British gave up their ability to easily do so. In doing so, they gave up their ability to rebel, and they thus lost their freedom.

Fortunately, the government of the UK is not facing an existential threat. If it were, you would see how their goverment does not serve at the pleasure of the people — rather, the people vote at the pleasure of the government.

Andrew Suffield August 27, 2009 2:53 PM

Honestly? What’s going on is almost certainly that a manufacturer of plastic glasses has seen an opportunity and done some fast talking. Every time we’ve seen something like this recently, the manufacturer turned out to be at the bottom of it.

The lobbying-for-commercial-profit industry is relatively new to the UK. It’s not very tightly regulated, and it’s getting out of hand. There’s a lot of political pressure for something to be done to reign in these clowns.

monkey think, monkey write August 27, 2009 3:00 PM

UK. What’s going on over there?

Bruce Schneier doesn’t know what’s going on in Airstrip One? Inconceivable!

Nick August 27, 2009 3:15 PM

Maybe as a further safety measure to cut down on injuries caused by drunken bar fights they could add a sizeable hole to the bottom of the “glass” to prevent it from being filled with intoxicating beverages.

Roy August 27, 2009 3:22 PM

Ever break a plastic glass? The shards will serve as make-do shivs, good for deep stabbing and slashing.

Steve August 27, 2009 3:31 PM

As someone who has lived in parts of scotland where some of the city pubs do have plastic glasses, I can see the value of this.

They don’t stop fights, but they do stop the traditional “smash the glass on the table to create a broken top of a glass, then push the glass into face of the person in front of you” attack. You can still fight someone, but without so much weaponry to hand, and to go out and seek more armaments can alert the pub security.

Of course, the other trend in the UK is for women to drink from a bottle, a bottle they keep their hand over when not drinking, because that stops anyone putting one of the “rape drugs” in. Different attack, different solution.

Russ Garrett August 27, 2009 3:33 PM

I’m disappointed to see the same level of hysteria here as everywhere else. Nowhere has it been said that the UK government is mandating plastic pint glasses, simply that the Home Office is commissioning a new design.

Many city-centre bars in the UK already use plastic pint glasses, and this is at the request of local government and police forces, not the central government. To force all pubs to serve beer in plastic glasses would likely require a new law to be passed.

Crucially, you can see that this story has been fed to the BBC by the British Beer and Pub Association, possibly as a PR stunt. The only response from the Home Office is one quote at the bottom of the article, which appears to have been made without knowing the premise of the article.

I am completely against having my liberty to drink beer from a glass removed, but let’s wait until there are hard facts rather than speculation. I think the UK needs to worry less about a “nanny state”, and more about the press taking the gullible public for a ride.

C August 27, 2009 3:53 PM

And another politician can sleep easier after a hard day’s work of pretending to improve the lives of others.

Simon August 27, 2009 4:01 PM

This is a good idea. Anyone who has spent some time in an A&E ward on Friday or Saturday evening will attest to the amount of misery a glass smashed over the head can cause.

Parts of Scotland (Glasgow I believe) already have bans on glass bottles being sold after a certain hour to stop them being used as impromptu weapons in a drunken fight. I can’t link to research to back it up, but I have heard it had a good impact on numbers of serious injuries. Without glass bottles, the drunks just resort to beating each other up with fists, which is less life-threatening.

I would certainly not refer to this measure as idiocy.

jon August 27, 2009 4:06 PM

meh. i usually agree (including on the knife point), but on this i’m not so sure. for two reasons:
– for the same reason, many sports stadiums ban glass beer bottles, which is why you get a plastic or aluminum bottle of beer (though can’t get that in stores). it’s not like banning all weapons, just weapons of immediate convenience, and only where people are drinking incredibly heavily. in the uk, such drinking leads to violent confrontation with startling frequency…
– a plastic beer glass is no less effective in holding beer. it’s not like replacing knives with something less sharp (or the school example in the comment above). this is simply a safer drinking receptacle.

Simon August 27, 2009 4:08 PM

“According to Strathclyde Police, there were 313 serious assaults in Glasgow’s city centre during the past year – 81 involved glass bottles, 69 of which involved people being struck on the head with a bottle.”

So here is a figure, 69 people per year in just one city seriously injured by being bashed on the head with a glass bottle. Replicate that on a wider scale and longer period of time and that’s a lot of serious injuries.

The UK proposes to implement a simple fix like replacing glass glasses and bottles with plastic and Bruce calls this idiocy?

Nick August 27, 2009 4:10 PM

There’s a bar in my city that serves beer in plastic pint glasses. But it’s also a really crappy bar, so I try to avoid it.

I thought they were just too cheap to spring for glass, since glass they have to replace more often when it breaks.

Simon August 27, 2009 4:17 PM

Keep ugly people out of pubs, then you won’t need beer goggles. Oh wait, beer glasses – my mistake.

cjc August 27, 2009 4:17 PM

Taking objects that can be used as weapons away from people using a recreational drug that undeniably unleashes violent tendancies in its users does not seem all that unreasonable. They are not talking about banning all glass containers everywhere. They are not even talking about only banning glass; they are also weighing design changes that would make them less dangerous while still using glass.

Should we have a argument about why glass containers are banned at pools, beaches, etc. too? Are those unreasonable limits on your freedom?

Bruce Schneier August 27, 2009 4:29 PM

“The UK proposes to implement a simple fix like replacing glass glasses and bottles with plastic and Bruce calls this idiocy?”

Why do you think replacing glasses — not bottles, just glasses — is a “simple fix” of the problem? Is there any study that demonstrates that people with a pint glass pint say “I’m going to bash this guy’s head in with this glass” and people with a plastic pint say: “Hmmm, I can’t hurt him with my plastic pint; maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all”?

It reminds me of some of those airline counterterrorism measures. We’re expecting the terrorists to say: “Wow, the TSA is screening shoes. Instead of making a minor adjustment in either tactic or target, let’s give up this terrorism fight and get real jobs instead.”

anon August 27, 2009 4:31 PM

To those saying this is a good idea, you’re right. It does have the potential to reduce injuries from broken glasses used as weapons.

But that doesn’t mean it should be mandated by the government.

Robbo the wonder spaniel August 27, 2009 4:32 PM

Similar bans have been talked about on Oz.

On the one hand, it seems like a stupid idea – to you and I that is … why? Because unless we were in a life threatening situation we’d never consider using an ‘impromptu weapon’.

Unfortunately, while we’d like to blame politicians, the real culprits are the knuckleheads who can’t hold their grog and get punch happy when sloshed. There have been numerous ‘high profile’ cases here of these nitwits permanently disfiguring and seriously injuring other punters, male and female, at bars. Anecdotal evidence suggests the problem is far more widespread, with a steady stream of less notable cases hitting emergency wards and stories of near misses and altercations/threats involving a broken pint.

The real answer is to curtail the knuckleheads – the minority who wreck things for the majority.

Maybe the government should have a graduated license system for boozers so we can do a course on how to hold our grog and demonstrate levels of sensibility at various levels of blood alcohol content. People shown to be knuckleheads would only qualify as ‘learner drinkers’ (must not exceed 2 pints, must be guided by a parent or guardian when drinking) … I’m sure there are many other ‘genius ideas’ the Government could come up with.

HJohn August 27, 2009 4:35 PM

@ “”Hmmm, I can’t hurt him with my plastic pint; maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all”?

It wouldn’t possibly occur to him to bash his head with a chair instead, stab him with the silverware, or simply beat his face into a counter.

If I ever open a bar, I guess everyone will be required to be chained into safety seats and drink O’Doulls from plastic cups. Anyone care to attend the grand opening?


Alexander Else August 27, 2009 5:03 PM

Replacing the glasses seems to be a sensible move when there’s a culture of violence encouraging their use as weapons. And that chiefly is the problem they’re addressing – glass is used as a verb in the UK, not bottle (in response to BC’s comment).

The consequences of replacing the glasses with plastic ones are minor for the drinkers but dramatic for the victims of glassings, which are often more serious than “normal” assaults and leave long lasting or permanent disfigurement.

If pubs are worried that it will affect the numbers of patrons then make adoption of the plastic (or other “safe” material) glasses voluntary but put the liability for glass assaults back on them.

Whether charges of criminal negligence or large fines or loss of license, pubs that have the kind of patrons that are likely to do this will switch glasses if it’s cheaper for them than suffering for the actions of their drunk patrons. Pubs that don’t have these problems can keep their glasses. They should be suffering fines anyway if they’re frequently having to deal with drunken violence (irresponsible service of alcohol).

If the incentives are right this can be resolved by the pubs individually rather than sweeping mandate.

A Nonny Bunny August 27, 2009 5:13 PM

@Bruce Schneier

It reminds me of some of those airline counterterrorism measures. We’re
expecting the terrorists to say: “Wow, the TSA is screening shoes. Instead of
making a minor adjustment in either tactic or target, let’s give up this
terrorism fight and get real jobs instead.

But terrorism isn’t an opportunistic attack, it’s planned. They’re not walking along, see an airport and think “Hey, let’s go in and blow ourselves up”. And if they did, they’d have a rather large problem of having material handy to do so.
Breaking a glass and shoving it in someone’s face, on the other hand, is spur-of-the-moment. If they had planned to attack someone they would have brought a knife; but it typically isn’t planned. Taking out an avenue for opportunistic attacks may therefore well contribute to a safer bar.

Kerry Thompson August 27, 2009 5:24 PM

Well, I can understand some of the reluctance to move to plastic glasses, but after reading JeffreyM’s link to Design Tales I’m quite impressed at what they can do with modern plastics. Plastic (polycarbonate) glasses can be made which give the same look and feel as real glass but are more durable, have a longer lifetime, are almost unbreakable, and are more economical.

I don’t think plastic glasses reduce the risk of being attacked by a drunken lout in a pub, but they will reduce the severity of the injuries if you happen to be attacked. I’ve seen the results of someone getting “glassed” and its really not nice – permanent facial disfigurement is the usual result.

So given that plastics can perform as well as glass, are economical, and have a reduced severity if misused, then why not? It sounds like a reasonable fix to a serious problem that isn’t encroaching on anyone’s freedoms or rights, particularly since adoption of plastics over glass is proposed to be voluntary and won’t hold you up at the airport or bar.

Arclight August 27, 2009 5:28 PM

This is yet another example of the runaway, paternalistic state mentality in action. Like Bruce often says, people with a vested interest in the outcome tend to be very good at setting their own “risk thermometers” appropriately for the situation.

In my case, I avoid being violently assaulted by not patronizing rowdy bars and not hitting on the local girls where I’m a stranger. The places that choose to serve alcohol in plastic cups do so for a reason, as do the establishments that frisk the patrons or make them pass through metal detectors.

I don’t like to go to those places, because I get the obvious vibe that people there like hurting each other.

Let the patrons and pub owners make their own decisions.

Anonny mouse August 27, 2009 5:57 PM

Bruce writes:
Is there any study that demonstrates that people with a pint glass pint say “I’m going to bash this guy’s head in with this glass” and people with a plastic pint say: “Hmmm, I can’t hurt him with my plastic pint; maybe he isn’t such a bad guy after all”?

… a bit rhetorical but there probably is a study somewhere. On the other hand if someone in a pub decides to hit you, as drunks tend to do, what would you prefer them to be holding?

tr August 27, 2009 5:57 PM

To do justice to the national character of the jocks, you would also have to refurbish all pubs into big padded cells.

Bruce Schneier August 27, 2009 6:10 PM

“But terrorism isn’t an opportunistic attack, it’s planned. They’re not walking along, see an airport and think “Hey, let’s go in and blow ourselves up”. And if they did, they’d have a rather large problem of having material handy to do so.”

This is an excellent point. So is the point made earlier that glass bottles are banned in sports stadiums — and most of us think that’s a good idea.

To me, this is a cost/benefit issue. And the costs and benefits just don’t make sense to me, and there isn’t a big enough security externality for the government to step in and regulate.

Sean Riley August 27, 2009 6:10 PM

Hold on, Bruce.

Why is this one silly? The logic holds similar to the pointy-knives ban — You’re removing a dangerous weapon from play, and replacing it with something that does the job it’s intended, but can’t be turned into a weapon.

This isn’t even a tradeoff. It’s a sensible measure.

Kerry Thompson August 27, 2009 6:47 PM

Bruce writes:
“To me, this is a cost/benefit issue. And the costs and benefits just don’t make sense to me, and there isn’t a big enough security externality for the government to step in and regulate.”

In the UK the government defines the standard pint glass, and they are marked with a certification stamp at the bottom. As I see it, the government is not particularly stepping in to regulate on a security issue, they are only calling for design & research to improve their own existing design.


Furthermore, I don’t think anyone is suggesting making it compulsory for all glasses to be plastic.

Bob August 27, 2009 7:13 PM

Bruce mentioned, “To me, this is a cost/benefit issue. And the costs and benefits just don’t make sense to me, and there isn’t a big enough security externality for the government to step in and regulate.”

The UK has a government health plan, so the government foots the bill for anybody who’s getting their arms stitched up or their face reconstructed after a glassing. So they do have an interest in eliminating that cost.

Mind you, my first emotional response was, “How silly!” But after reading some of the posts from folks in the UK, it sounds like assaults with broken glasses and bottles really is a problem in some places, and switching glass to plastic might be a solution.

Is it a good solution? I don’t know. As Bruce and other point out, chairs and fists make pretty good weapons, too. But I think some numbers are in order before dismissing this idea out of hand.

Actually, a friend of mine in Edinburgh found a pretty good personal solution. She’s a wee thing who got a few stitches in her arms one night after a drunken local boxer tried to glass a friend of hers. This lassie stepped in and received some minor flesh wounds while using aikido to “redirect” him several times into various immovable parts of the pub, with resultant bodily injury and great cheering by the other patrons. While recovering in hospital, he tried to press charges for “excessive force”, and the local constabulary had a very good laugh. He was so humiliated, he could no longer show up at the local boxing gym and had to move to another part of the country. No nanny state needed for that wee lassie!

Roboticus August 27, 2009 7:34 PM

For what its worth, I’ve been attacked at least a dozen times over the past 7 years by people at bars and liqour stores where I have worked. I always dodged bottles and glasses, I didn’t alway get out of the way in time of a bare fist.

Jacob Davies August 27, 2009 7:35 PM

Sorry, Bruce, but I think you’re completely wrong on this one, and if you’d ever been in a sketchy situation in a British pub, suddenly aware that the drunken idiot picking a fight with you is holding a glass that can be turned into a razor-sharp weapon in a couple of seconds, I think you’d appreciate why.

Fights in pubs in Britain are much more common than fights in bars in the US, and it’s my impression that they’re much more vicious when they do happen – partly because people tend to get much drunker in Britain. Unless you’ve spent a fair amount of time in fairly rough urban pubs & clubs in Britain I don’t think you can have a good feel for just how often & how casually physical violence occurs there.

Of course, someone truly determined to cause injury could still bring a knife, but many clubs search customers on entry, and carrying a knife is going to get you in trouble with the police should you get stopped and searched on the street.

A glass or bottle is always available, completely deniable, and you don’t have to plan ahead. And a razor-sharp glass edge is something you can use in close quarters easily (unlike a chair), like a knife it is not easily taken away without injury, and it can be used effectively even if you don’t outweigh the person you’re fighting (unlike fighting bare-fisted). Weapons make a difference, that’s why people use them after all.

Taking away glasses will help reduce injuries from fights, I guarantee it, and the only loss to liberty is that you’ll have to drink your beer out of a plastic cup – hardly the end of the world. Again, if you are in that situation where violence is potentially imminent, you are going to be a lot happier if the guy menacing you is holding a plastic cup and not a pint glass.

Your take on security is usually good, but I think sometimes you miss that there are cultural or situational factors that make particular security measures effective, even if they sound ridiculous to an American because the corresponding situation rarely occurs here.

Spiny Norman August 27, 2009 8:02 PM

Bill Buford’s account of football hooligans in England contains several graphic descriptions of very serious bar fights that involve the use of pint glasses as weapons. Ugly stuff. There are bars like that in the U.S., too. Of course, here such fights would often end in the parking lot with a shooting.

klaymen August 27, 2009 8:10 PM

This has been happening in australia for a while now.

If you are at a pub, after 8pm or there abouts (most pubs anyway) they change over to plastic ‘glasses’.

Allan August 27, 2009 9:16 PM

It’s notable that many of the comments supporting this come from Scotland, where this has already been done (certain bars and clubs have plastic pints — bottles are poured into them — mandated by the council) and the effect has been dramatic. I’m sure studies are ongoing, but the anecdotal reports from A&Es are impressive. Glassing is a horrible attack, with consequences not unlike acid attacks, and which are often wildly out of proportion with what the attacker intended. It’s a case of not knowing their own strength, and where people wouldn’t attack with a knife, they’ll happily smash their glass into a victim.

Replacing those glasses is a simple and extremely effective measure against this, and I struggle to see how the Home Office commissioning a potential design for use across the industry is ludicrous. I also fail to see how your reduced position of failing a CBA stands up, unless you have a study of the (large) costs of weekend drink-related violence to the NHS.

(and yes, the UK also has a deeper alcohol problem, but that’s more intractable.)

dmx August 27, 2009 9:35 PM

Yeah, they are looking at a similar measure in Western Australia with glasses after a recent spate of glassing.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this happen before, I did at a local pub when two drunken guys got into a fight over a girl, and one glassed the other. But its ugly as hell. The victim ended up being taken out by ambulance after his head was split open and losing a terrifying amount of blood. I think he was OK in the end, but you really have to see it to understand.

That said, the problem is in the culture of drinking, not the glasses. Drunk people will find other ways of inflicting terrible violence on others.

db cooper August 27, 2009 9:37 PM

Not relevant to the original story, but a comment on US bars.

In a number of Southern states one will see bands performing on a stage that is enclosed in chicken wire. If the patrons don’t like the music (or perhaps they don’t like the beer) their bottles are thrown at the band. Once upon a time I frequented such places, to this day I can’t tell you why.

Ravan Asteris August 27, 2009 10:12 PM

The reason they keep coming out with this kind of idiocy is simple:
They banned guns, then non-kitchen knives, but they found that violence didn’t go away, or even decrease much. People just found other methods – broken glass, coshes, sticks, darts, etc. So they’ve been trying to ban every little thing that can be used for violence. They don’t realize that even if you ban everything, and make people run around naked, there will still be violence from people who haven’t learned any better.

Glasses and knives don’t kill people, people kill people. Silly Brits.

sipos August 27, 2009 11:48 PM

“What’s going on over there?”

We’re wondering the same. Every day a politician says or does something so amazingly stupid that I think it can’t possibly get any worse. I am consistently proved wrong.

Matthew August 27, 2009 11:54 PM

That idea’s been bandied about here in australia too. Why it is that attacking someone with a broken glass is so darn popular is beyond me, but we’ve had a few high-profile cases here where it’s been done by a TV personality or professional football player (usually to their girlfriends, if you didn’t think it was disturbing enough already).

According to this link, there were 339 “glassing” attacks in the year from october 2007, in new south wales alone.

The calls for changes here in australia are frequently coming from surgeons.

One option is to require the glasses to be toughened. It makes them nigh-unbreakable (I’ve seen someone stomping on a toughened beer glass to break it – they’re really strong) and when they DO break they shatter like car windscreens, into little harmless cubes.

jtoupe August 28, 2009 12:38 AM

While banning glass makes little sense, it makes even less sense to ban alcohol (the proximate cause)in a pub. That is, after all, the purpose of the pub. I think they should just ban bad personalities.

Neighborcat August 28, 2009 12:54 AM

I find the specificity of “glass curfew” laws interesting. Do the statistics indicate a step-function increase in glassing incidents at a certain hour?

Changing from glass to plastic at a given hour requires an establishment to stock two entire sets of drinkware, does it not? That some establishments would do so rather than switch entirely to plastic indicates a significant customer preference for glass.

Off topic, but speaking of banning materials:

I for one am entirely in favor of banning beer glasses, provided they are replaced by a funnel and hose…


Gweihir August 28, 2009 12:56 AM

Seems to me the problem is not the glasses, but the brits in general not being able to keep the violence level of their citizens down. This strikes me of one of the signs of a society in the state of disintegrating. People stop caring to be civilized, they don’t see a worthwhile future for themselves, they cannot get decent jobs, etc..

The plastic glasses are just a symptom and will not help a lot. Quite frankly, there may be nothing that can be done now to really help and sure nothing in the short term.

Anon Y. Mouse August 28, 2009 12:56 AM

What, CCTV cameras in pubs hasn’t been suggested as a solution?

The obvious answer is to ban alcohol, and legalize marijuana!

Or maybe if you want to drink in a pub, you have to leave a
deposit of several hundred pounds at the door first. Start
a fight and forfeit your deposit.

Oh! Oh! I’ve got it! How about “drinker’s insurance?” Proof
of insurance required to drink in a pub. Younger drinkers and
drinkers with claims against them will pay higher premiums.
Older drinkers with clean records will pay less.

Henk August 28, 2009 1:07 AM

[quote]Mind you, my first emotional response was, “How silly!” But after reading some of the posts from folks in the UK, it sounds like assaults with broken glasses and bottles really is a problem in some places, and switching glass to plastic might be a solution.

Hell no!
Basically you are ‘punishing’ the masses for the problems caused by a few. How about the police-state-island UK actually use their police and get the ones causing the problems and leave the general public alone.

That’s the problem nowadays. Single (or few) events get the majority of attention and rules. It’s basically no different than with terrorism. Rules get placed on events that happen seldom but get a lot of attention.

Nomen Publicus August 28, 2009 3:03 AM

  1. the “plastic” glasses can be broken and you end up with very sharp edges. This makes a mockery of the “no metal knives” rule on aeroplanes.

  2. why not use “tempered glass” which shatters into small bits when broken. Such glasses have been available since at least 1927 (Duralex)

  3. let’s return to metal tankards and play pirate drinking games every night…

n3td3v August 28, 2009 3:45 AM

Take away the glass and they’ll find a knife. Take away the knife they’ll find something else.

tr August 28, 2009 4:01 AM

C’mon, if you take away the glasses they will not find a knife. Being jocks they will suffocate each other with haggis or ram broomsticks up their a****.

Nostromo August 28, 2009 4:39 AM

It’s less absurd than the US ban on scissors on flights. If you try to take a pair of nail scissors with 1.5cm blades onto a flight to, from, or in the US, it will be confiscated.

If you have a pair of scissors with 1.5cm blades, and you want to attack somebody, here are the steps to take:

  1. Throw away the nail scissors, they are useless as a weapon

  2. Attack the guy with your bare hands or anything heavy that happens to be handy.

uk visa August 28, 2009 4:40 AM

Safety glasses, that break into chunks like old windscreens rather than shards, have been available for years – pubs tend not to use them because they’re slightly more expensive.
All the government needed to do was make the safer ones VAT free and the problem would have been solved, to a great extent.
Another measure would have been that licensing authorities would make it a condition of a pub continuing to trade after a disturbance that they only used safe glasses.
However, these measure wouldn’t have provided any publicity to our beloved leader and his government.

Calum August 28, 2009 4:53 AM

The problem is that in the UK alcohol has been channelled into being something that can only be consumed in large quantities. You can’t buy a small bottle of beer to go with your lunch. You can’t run a coffee shop with a single lager tap. The problems are largely legal, and they play into the hands of large pub chains and supermarkets. No-one is interested in asking how we can return to a culture where the pub was somewhere one could go for a couple of quiet pints and a bit of banter. Yes, those places still exist, but they are becoming fewer and fewer as time goes by.

As for the drunken Scots argument, it’s crap. People get glassed in places where the landlords tolerate having those kinds of people in the premises. Stamp down on the landlords, enforce the laws that exist. Don’t treat symptoms, treat the disease.

Josh Schairbaum August 28, 2009 6:36 AM

Perhaps it’s because they no longer have access to knives that these miscreants have resorted to glasses. After classes are removed, they’ll resort to silverware, after silverware removed, they’ll resort to pens, after pens, etc. etc. Glasses don’t cause glassings, people cause glassings.

elad-vav August 28, 2009 6:44 AM

Simon, the assailants who attacked these 69 people in Glasgow with beer bottles — where are they now? Because if they’re not in prison, then I know what the problem is.

I find it hard to believe that people who seriously injure people in bar fights go to prison and yet there are many violent bar fights going on. The solution to bar violence is to punish the criminals, not to punish everyone. The frequency of drunken violence in the UK is alarming, and it seems that the problem is lack of police presence and severe punishments, not the availability of beer glasses.

BF Skinner August 28, 2009 6:58 AM

What about pointed sticks?

“3. let’s return to metal tankards and play pirate drinking games every night…”

Good good. Replace cuts and punctures for good ol’ blunt force trauma. Tankards are good for quaffing and hand to hand combat like any of your fine Australian wines.

@elad-vav “the problem is lack of police presence and severe punishments”

Reminds me of the plight of the bald eagle and coyote.
1. Sheep are dim. (by design)
2. Sheep ranchers are cheap (by market force necessity)
3. Range is cheap (by public subsidy)
4. People are expensive. (darn people)
5. Ranchers release herds of sheep into the free range with no one to watch over them. (practically feed themselves)
6. Sheep kill themselves ’cause they’er stupid
—and get eaten by predators ’cause they’er stupid.
7. Rancher sees losses and says we must destroy all the predators. See to it gumm’nt. And the Federal Gov’t pays for eradication programs and Alaskan governors hunt wolves from helicoptors (ranchers did this too for bald eagles in the 60’s). I think there may still be Canadian eradication program on wolves cause they eat up all the carribou and people don’t have enough to feed their dogs.

Buddha said that the world is full of rocks with sharp edges and corners that cut our feet. We can either line the world with shoe leather or use leather to cover our feet.

BF Skinner August 28, 2009 6:59 AM

If plastic is too unsafe…how about just running hoses from the keg…like a beer hooka

Adam O August 28, 2009 7:12 AM

There are several points here, most of which have been mentioned above, that make me think this is not the great scandal some people seem to be taking it as.

  1. The home office isn’t proposing to replace all glasses in British pubs with plastic. It’s merely looking for some designs of safe pint glasses. If you read the article, that doesn’t even necessarily mean plastic – there are other proposals, such as laminated glass, and they’ve not decided which is preferable yet.
  2. I’ve used high-quality plastic pint glasses before and they’re actually not bad. A couple of times I’ve used them and not realised they’re plastic for several minutes. I think a lot of people are mixing up cheap shoddy plastic glasses of the type frequently used at cheap bars and clubs with the sort of high-quality stuff this plan may produce. Also, this isn’t looking to use an existing design – that’s the whole point of the article – it’s looking for new designs that are just as good as the glass version.
  3. At present glass is by far the most dangerous weapon readily available in pubs at the times violence tends to occur (when food is no longer being served and cutlery has been stored). Violence happens more at pubs, due to a mixture of alcohol and cultural concerns (there are no children and frequently people – mostly men – aren’t with their partners, so they show far less restraint than normal). Removing the glass seems reasonably sensible.

So, with regards to the cost-benefit analysis, I would say that IF the new plastic glasses/bottles are comparable quality (which is easily possible), I can see the potential introduction of such glasses having considerable benefit for minimal cost. The cost of designing and selecting a ‘safe’ glass is probably recovered if it prevents only a few assault victims from being hospitalised.

sooth sayer August 28, 2009 7:53 AM

Introduce Plastic Tubing with a replaceable nipple.

Suck on it when you are in the bar — charge by the hour — brilliant!

John H August 28, 2009 7:55 AM

@calum “You can’t buy a small bottle of beer to go with your lunch” — this is false, everywhere sells half pints and 330ml bottles. Unless you’re saying something about peer pressure to drink more with lunch?

In general: the article is pitched as if the Home Office wants to mandate plastic glasses everywhere. I would oppose this, as I drink in nice pubs where violence is very rare.

In places where plastic glasses are already used, I’d welcome an improved plastic glass, such as the one Jefferey M referred to.

The government has succumbed to industry pressure, and not passed a law to set a minumum price on alcohol. This would have discouraged binge drinking, without punishing those who drink less of a more discerning product.

Calum August 28, 2009 8:05 AM

@HJohn – I’m not talking about being able to walk into a supermarket and buy a bottle of beer: I’m talking about being able to walk into Greggs and buy a bottle of beer. It’s this attitude that alcohol is kept behind a sort of firewall that I dislike. It’s the same cultural barrier that causes teenagers to go out and get smashed because they have no other safe, appropriate access to alcohol in a sensible social environment.

Elad-vav is also thinking along the right lines: the police in any major city can tell you without blinking which pubs could be shut, reducing violence overnight, but licensing authorities won’t come on board.

David Cantrell August 28, 2009 8:14 AM

Just like the “call” to ban pointy knives – nothing’s happening. Stupid people float silly ideas all the time. Sometimes their silly ideas get at least some consideration before being rejected, just like this one will.

That said, a good plastic “glass”, one that has similar feel, doesn’t dissolve in your drink, etc, would be good for the pub industry by being less likely to break (and so need replacing) when dropped, and probably be cheaper to manufacture.

John H August 28, 2009 8:29 AM

@Calum, OK, I missed that. Where in the world can you buy beer at a bakery though?

The problem with shutting down the nasty pubs is that the nasty clientele will move on an cause problems for another pub.

In a sense you could say that keeping the troublesome pubs at least concentrates the problem in one place — like the sacrificial planting that gardeners do.

cdek August 28, 2009 9:54 AM

May or may not have been said, but here in the states there’s often a lot of “memorabilia” on the walls of a lot of places. I’m sure a picture frame, neon sign, or pool cue would work in a pinch. Give me 30 seconds to take a shoe and sock off and throw a pool ball in the sock and we can dance all night.

zappahey August 28, 2009 11:15 AM

“Where in the world can you buy beer at a bakery though?”

Right here in Belgium. If there’s a chill cabinet for soft drinks, it will also include beer. But then, beer practically is a soft drink in Belgium

Allan August 28, 2009 11:21 AM

“The solution to bar violence is to punish the criminals, not to punish everyone.”

oh noes i am so punished by not getting a real glass to drink from in a rammed pub at night.

“Because if they’re not in prison, then I know what the problem is.”

No, you don’t. Unless you think that jailing the offenders is going to give the victims back their faces. Deterrence is a dodgy enough concept as it is; to think that it works on enraged drunken louts is too much of a reach.

This is simpler than you make out — although since one of the suggestions to treating the UK’s alcohol problem is “sell booze in Gregg’s” I’m not sure everyone fully understands the problem here. Yes, there are many alcohol-related problems, and some of them are very difficult. This one isn’t.

In a nutshell: People are being seriously injured by glass in pubs. If we take the glass away, that will stop happening, immediately. There will undoubtedly still be injuries, and still be violence, but a) it’s not going to be so terrifyingly easy for the attacker and b) the injuries are not going to be as dramatically severe. You need to do a serious amount of work with dinner cutlery to get the same effect as you do with one blow from a glass. You could do a serious amount of damage with a pool ball, too, but not nearly as irreversible, in the main.

Other problems will remain, and the country’s attitude to drink will still be broken. But while we work on that, fewer people will be losing their faces from attackers who are out of theirs.

Bruce has already conceded that most folk think this is a good idea in sports arenas, and I think all the rest is just haggling.

Courtney August 28, 2009 11:54 AM

Bruce, I disagree with your assertion that this is similar to the security theater of TSA-shoe-checking. Why? Because while terrorists plan their crimes in advance (therefore making shoe-checking nearly meaningless), your average bar brawler affected by a glass ban decides to attack on the spur of the moment. If he DID plan ahead, he’d pack a weapon in advance, which is superior to a broken glass, and probably wouldn’t initiate violence in a public place. The breaking of glasses and bottles is a purely opportunistic reaction to anger.

Therefore, if a glass-ban took place, he’d frantically search for something to use in his drunken rage, and either 1) throw a punch/tackle the guy (in my experience, most likely) or 2) use a chair or some other blunt object available to him or 3) try unsuccessfully to break the plastic glass/bottle, then attempt 1 or 2. All three options usually result in less fatal injury than lacerations or puncture wounds. (I speak as an EMT here.)

I’m assuming the plastic glasses or bottles are made of a sturdy plastic that can withstand someone whacking it on a bar with force. As someone else said, plastic shards have very sharp points as well.

Additionally, plastic cups would eliminate that cringe we all feel when we hear a server drop a tray.

So if I were a pub owner, and superior materials were available (as someone mentioned in an earlier comment) that allowed for cold transfer, no aftertaste, scratch-resistant, etc, I’d make the switch. But if it’s not worth it for pub owners to make that switch independently, I don’t think government should step in.

So I guess in the end I agree with Bruce, except for the assertion that this is similar to shoe-checking.

savanik August 28, 2009 12:03 PM

5,000 people being attacked by glasses in bars is starting to get up there in terms of serious problems. How many of those were fatalities? Traffic fatalities in GB run around 3,000 a year at this point.

I don’t suppose anyone has any statistics on the ‘cost per life saved’ for this measure? I can’t help but wonder if anyone’s even asked that question.

Making broad policy decisions without good information is pretty on-par with most governments. Don’t see why anyone would be surprised.

Clive Robinson August 28, 2009 12:36 PM

@ John H

“Where in the world can you buy beer at a bakery though?”

You used to be able to do it in some parts of Germany.

For various reasons to do with health, beer is legaly considered to be an essential food stuff in quite a few Northan European Countries (the reason being the mash is boiled therby killing of the nasties in the water).

The problem with Great Britain was (and still is) stupid politicians.

During the first world war artillary shells fell short or missed the target. The reasons where complex.

However somebody blaimed the fact that “workers” could be seen drinking beer in the morning.

In knee jerk legislation the first “licenced hours” law was brought in.

This exacerbated an already existing problem where by “Public Houses” where becoming less and less like “inns” due to the increased urbanisation brought about by large cities and industrialisation (oddly made possible by the drinking of tea).

In a farming environment of those times if you consumed to much “safe to drink” beer in one go the worst that was likley to happen to you was that you would fall over and go to sleep (farming was not mechanised at this point in history).

However this was not so in towns where the consumption of alcohol would effect your ability to carry out a trade.

Thus drinking your eight pints a day (the safe amount) during the day in a farming environment changed to drinking your eight pints of beer at the end of the day (an unsafe practice).

When licensed hours came in you realy did have to drink quite quickly to get eight pints down your gullet betwen the end of your long shift (12-14hours) and closing time.

Often men would forgo food just to get the beer in. The results where obvious and predictable. Just as they where with Prohibition in the US, although the US sensibly got rid of it well within a generation unlike the UK which has only just eased up on licencing hours.

The social changes that came about are still fairly well entrenched in the UK

However longer licencing hours in Scotland actualy gave rise to a significant fall in drink related crime, and to the licenced trades horror a fall in alcohol consumption.

In order to protect the “PubCos” proffits they introduced alcopops etc to get young people hooked on alcohol and happy hours to get people in early and get sufficient alcohol down their gullets that they got quickly beyond the sensible drinking point.

The solution to the problem is probably disolution of the rapacious PubCos that are currently exempt from many laws that effect other businesses.

mcb August 28, 2009 1:33 PM

Three words:

“Paper Beer Cartons”

They’re greener than plastic “glasses” or bottles, take up less space, can be tossed in the recycling bin instead of wasting wash water, prevent back injuries by eliminating kegs, and allow a pub to remove tap handles that might otherwise be unscrewed by weapons-deprived drunken thugs to create improvised cudgels. No wait, paper beer cartons are probably a slip hazard, fire hazard, and paper cut hazard…never mind.

Matt from CT August 28, 2009 1:37 PM

@Clive —

There may be some truth to what you’re saying, however farming was most certainly more mechanized by World War One then the impression given in your comment.

The work was more varied by time of day and season of year then that of an industrial worker tended to be. My guess is the average farmer was exposed to any given machine less but was exposed to a greater variety of machines over the course of a year.

A drunk farmer just affects his business and his family’s; a drunken farm hand just affected the relatively few people on his crew (say 4 normally and maybe up to 16 during harvest) but could often be replaced by another unskilled laborer pretty easy.

Absenteeism and drunkeness however in an industrial establishment put entire timelines out of kilter. My suspicion is the concern was much more about productivity then safety.

Shane August 28, 2009 2:39 PM

@everyone criticizing those of use calling this ‘idiocy’…

Every bar / pub / establishment has the freedom to choose (with respect to cost) what it serves its alcohol in.

Should some be violent, full of broken glass and bloody brawls, sure! Serve your drinks outta rubber sippy cups for all I care. No one has ever put a ban on plastic cups in bars, but at least I will still have the freedom to walk down the street to another pub, sans the bloody brawls, and still have a @#$%ing glass of beer.

The idiocy isn’t in the thought that this may reduce the severity of barroom brawls, or even save lives in some cases, the idiocy is in the government taking away the people’s / business’s choice in the matter ‘for their own good’.

Bollocks. Not to mention every point centering on the idea that banning the tool or regulating the methodology is just plain stupid government. This isn’t an automatic laser kill-ray, it’s a beer glass.

_IRIX August 28, 2009 5:27 PM

“That recommendation also came out of the UK. What’s going on over there?”

Actually first (I think more than 50 years ago) the authorities in America AND/OR Canada had forbidden the long beer bottles and suggested the short ones, because too many deaths caused by fights in pubs.
And because the bottle-neck is very short, therefore it is hard to use the bottle for anything else than drinking.
You just can’t hold it tight and hit someone deadly..

BTW drinking beer from aluminum cans may cause brain disease, and some plastic cups(and food packages) release toxic chemicals in our drinks and food, have you ever think of this?
Which one is safest?
Plastic cups are nightmare.. for the nature. And we’re part of it all.

Tim August 28, 2009 5:39 PM

@ Jacon Davies:

“A glass or bottle is always available…and it can be used effectively even if you don’t outweigh the person you’re fighting (unlike fighting bare-fisted). Weapons make a difference, that’s why people use them after all.”

Sounds like this is a good reason to keep glass vessels available. Someone who is smaller and gets into a fight become some drunken lout decides, well, it’s fun, deserve the cutting he might get from said smaller guy.

There’s a reason I don’t go to bars often, if at all. Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things.

Tim August 28, 2009 5:41 PM


“Actually first (I think more than 50 years ago) the authorities in America AND/OR Canada had forbidden the long beer bottles and suggested the short ones,”

I don’t know where you go, but I see long-neck bottles all the time around Phoenix, AZ

evan August 28, 2009 8:22 PM

I’ve been in the UK for 5 months now, having previously lived in Texas and Ohio. The seemingly reasonable responses from all the British people who think this is a perfectly good idea is a common theme here. Everyone wants/expects the government to keep them safe. No guns, no pointy knives, everyone in a bright reflective vest and a helmet. It’s for your “health and safety”. They have given up their freedoms at an alarming rate with not a second thought as to what they have lost. Everyone here is perfectly content to sit in hours of traffic because entire freeways are shut down after a fender bender.

Specifically about glasses. If you are drinking a crap pint of tasteless light beer (or lager over here), sure, serve it in a plastic cup, nobody will know the difference, but you can’t take a complex flavorful pint of real cask ale and serve it in a worthless plastic cup. It’s like serving good wine in plastic, it just doesn’t make any sense and it absolutely effects the enjoyment.

I haven’t been here long enough to have learned about every single pub individually, but you have to be a complete moron to not know either before you enter the pub, or as soon as you walk in it and survey those in attendance, what you are getting yourself into. 90% of the pubs have zero problem with violence. People are there for a stress free good time. Bars and clubs (not pubs) in city areas with younger crowds make up the rest of that percentage and your friendly drug pub the last bit. If you go in the wrong place, and hang with the wrong crowd you are accepting the risk that something might go wrong.

If people are tired of being assaulted, they need to find a new place to drink.

The person advocating minimum prices for alcohol is completely off base, beer tax is already out of hand here. If price was the problem, there would be more instances of people beating each other over the head with liter glass jugs of cider that cost 2 quid.

Maybe the solution is more violent disturbing public service announcements they love over here like the person being haunted by the dead child they ran over, or the wife listening to her husband die in a car crash because she was talking to him on the phone while he drove.

Or maybe the solution is to do nothing. Maybe people shouldn’t be saved from themselves.

Clive Robinson August 29, 2009 12:01 AM

@ Matt from CT,

“There may be some truth to what you’re saying, however farming was most certainly more mechanized by World War One then the impression given in your comment.”

Yes indeed,

Reading back on my comment what I failed to do was make clear that the bit about the social attitude change,

“This exacerbated an already existing problem…”

That happened as “inns” changed to “Public Houses” with increasing urbanisation and industrialisation had started a few centuries prior to the First World War (ie pre industrial rev). Such are the problems with trying to be brief with a long time line.

The history of alcohol in it’s various drinkable types and the effect it had on societies is actually quite profound. And not well recognised when history is taught which is a shame because it explains a lot of “wierdness” that crops up.

For instance drinking alcohol has caused an easily measurable change in peoples genetic makeup, in little more than a few thousand years.

And likewise other “safe to drink” beverages such as tea and coffee. The very marked urbanisation of the UK where cities went beyond populations of 40,000 was not seen in continental Europe (due to cholera). The only other parts of the world it was seen in where places where tea was drunk.

It is only in more recent times that we have found the reason for this which is that tea unlike coffee has a natural “anti-biotic” effect.

More difficult to show is the historical social differences of alcohol types (beer-v-wine). For instance the establishment of market towns and artistic trades.

In Northern Europe market towns tended to establish around places where beer was brewed often by either a army garison or major church.

Speaking of which your last comment about,

“My suspicion is the concern was much more about productivity then safety.”

Applies to the so called “Protestant work ethic”.

The “church” started to take an interest in “drunken debauched behaviour” only when it started hitting them financialy. That is they had to make charitable payments towards the care of illigitimate children. In turn Work houses were started to make orphanages etc pay their way.

When “industrialisation” took off the Church became dependent on the factory owners for large sums of money for various things. Thus the factory owners problems with social behaviour became that of the church.

The funny thing is it can be shown that “church policy” in previous times was part of the root cause of social problems (and still is). And that the church was for many centuries the “power behind the throne” or major political force. In essence all society has done is swap one set of self interested and often corupt “taxers” (the church) for another (the politicians).

Erik V. Olson August 29, 2009 8:37 AM

“2. why not use “tempered glass” which shatters into small bits when broken.”

Tempered glass makes a lousy drinking glass. The weakness of tempered glass is the edge — how many glasses have you see with tiny edge chips? — and it would need to be much thicker glass to survive the tempering process, which involves a great deal of stress in the glass. Indeed, that’s the whole point, but a fair amount of tempered glass doesn’t survive tempering.

To be honest, while I don’t have proof, looking at the shapes of tempered glass that I’ve dealt with (a lot, my father was a glazier) I suspect that you couldn’t successfully temper a pint glass without it shattering.

Mark August 29, 2009 1:10 PM

One option is to require the glasses to be toughened. It makes them nigh-unbreakable (I’ve seen someone stomping on a toughened beer glass to break it – they’re really strong) and when they DO break they shatter like car windscreens, into little harmless cubes.

Which is going to be a lot safer than hard plastic “glasses”. Which can still be made into sharp and pointy objects. The only other alternative would be to make them out of thin soft plastic. e.g. PET. Which is even less liked by drinkers.

Simon Oosthoek August 30, 2009 1:12 AM

Perhaps this is over-gereralising, but could it be that the British have perfected a mode of conformism regarding the raising of children that has resulted in a belief in total control?

As all sane people probably know, there’s no way to control everything, especially the behaviour and thoughts of your own children. Yet there’s a landslide of books about raising children that either focus on rewards or punishments (including the time-out (from positive reinforcement) method).

The result of this kind of upbringing could be a vicious circle running up into political ways trying to control everything that citizens do or don’t.

An alternative way of thinking is provided by people like Alfie Kohn ( and Deborah Jackson, who insist that children are human beings from the start and deserve our respect and autonomy. Parenting to them takes the form of teaching from a well founded loving relationship that is never betrayed by forcefully controlling their behaviour. The effect is that the children learn to control their behaviour from their own volition, rather than in response to a possible consequence (punishment or reward).
Alfie Kohn says there’s plenty of scientific research that shows that an upbringing using consequenses for controlling behaviour leads to more aggressive children (bullies).

(Unfortunately) most systems of law are built around punishments for aberrant behaviour, which simply reinforces both controlling and controlled people in their efforts (enforce behaviour by setting up laws, or avoid getting the punishments (being caught) respectively).


Clive Robinson August 30, 2009 3:40 AM

@ Simon Oosthoek,

“Perhaps this is over-gereralising, but could it be that the British have perfected a mode of conformism… ”

Have you heard of the English,

“Stiff upper lip”?

However when it comes to control the English have been responsable for a number of things,

1, First Concentration camps.
2, First use of WMD against a civilian population
3, Public School system.
4, Parlimentry “representational democracy”
5, Comunisum
6, Orwellian survalence
7, World Exportation of greed
8, Imperialisum

The list just goes on and on.

Oh and one that springs to mind when it comes to “Punishment” is Jeremy Benthan’s Panopticon

From a man who seriously considered himself to be a “humanist”.

Perhaps it is a form of “Paternalistic self delusion” disgused as “liberalisum” brought about by a class system that never begat a revoloution.

It might also be that we are the first “Mongrel Nation”. What ever it is, it certainly attracts people from all over the world, who want to raise their families here (Yup I’m aware it might just be the NHS, Free Education and Benifits systems).

LucitheR August 30, 2009 2:35 PM

I live in Hamburg, in the vincinity of the (in)famous Reeperbahn. We have a glas bottle ban ( together with weapon, teargas and whathaveyou- ban) every weekend. doesn’t help with serious wounds due to drunk fighting so far
and beer doesn’t taste that good out of plastic.

Dermitt August 30, 2009 3:04 PM

Set the bar higher. Fly private and you can have a glass and no glass ceilings. Nothing beats a flying Pub. You gotta love it!

Eric August 30, 2009 5:27 PM

Bruce states: To me, this is a cost/benefit issue. And the costs and benefits just don’t make sense to me, and there isn’t a big enough security externality for the government to step in and regulate.

Well don’t you have to do an analysis to figure out what the the cost-benefit situation is? Or are you able to lean back in your Aeron, interlace your fingers behind your head, and see all the costs and benefits and their interactions.

For a forum frequented by security experts, the methodology of “because I intuited it” is sure popular.

EricD August 31, 2009 3:11 AM

This is fun, I encountered this about 20 years ago when I was a student too. A Student club went from Glass to Unbreakable plastic ( no throw away plastic). If used correct, the new “glasses” could be used as projectiles by laying them on the ground and jumping on them… I do not know what is more leathal. Somebody with a glass from nearby or a hard projectile flying past….

BMurray August 31, 2009 1:15 PM

In the UK you have a ban on most weapons coupled with a strong cultural desire to kill each other. The result is improvised weaponry. The cause is the fact that it’s hard to look “tough on crime” by addressing social and psychological (soft) issues and it’s easy to look the part by banning the implements.

In the US, the cultural bias towards killing and injuring other people seems at least equally strong, but there is a resistance to banning weapons. I expect an analysis of both cultures would suggest that the net effect on injuries sustained in fighting is about the same. That is, legal access to weapons doesn’t change the rate with which people try to kill each other.

But you can’t get elected on the “let’s learn to get along” platform. Too girly.

JGreer August 31, 2009 5:29 PM

Posted by: BMurray

“In the US, the cultural bias towards killing and injuring other people seems at least equally strong, but there is a resistance to banning weapons. I expect an analysis of both cultures would suggest that the net effect on injuries sustained in fighting is about the same. That is, legal access to weapons doesn’t change the rate with which people try to kill each other.”

Legal access to weapons does change the rate. I am less likely to shoot, maim, or kill someone if I think that they may be armed themselves.

tensor August 31, 2009 10:58 PM

“…but you can’t take a complex flavorful pint of real cask ale and serve it in a worthless plastic cup. It’s like serving good wine in plastic, it just doesn’t make any sense and it absolutely effects the enjoyment.”

Bingo. My on-the-way-home-from-work pub sits near two major sports parks. On game days, they serve in plastic cups. Luckily, I know the bartenders, and they’ll fetch me a real glass if I ask pleasantly.

If you go to a rough-and-tumble pub, you can expect a fight or two. If you pay a bit more for a better experience, the staff will keep everyone safe. (The latter places have better beer anyway…)

SteveJ September 1, 2009 3:56 PM


No idea whether the different approaches affect the rate at which people try to kill each other.

But if your speculation is correct, that they try to kill each other with about the same frequency, then it would follow that the British approach reduces the rate at which they actually succeed, saving thousands of lives. The murder rate in the US is 43 per million for 2008. In the UK it’s 14 per million.

So, maybe BMurray’s guess is wrong, and US citizens are just more murderous than UK citizens to begin with. Maybe UK weapons restrictions are saving lives, or maybe some combination of the two.

But whatever actually accounts for the deaths, it’s pretty clear from the politics that the nations simply differ in their priorities. It’s quite conceivable that to the typical US voter, carrying guns really is worth 10 thousand or so lives a year (actually more once you include gun accidents), and in the UK it isn’t. Each country gets what it wants, or at least what it expresses at the ballot box. There’s not much point accusing people of ineffective measures, just because the measure is designed to achieve something (reduce the severity of certain violent assaults) which you personally wouldn’t do at that cost.

stevem September 3, 2009 6:33 AM

Seems to me there is no statement of intent from the home office to ban beer glasses. Both this article and the BBC website are misleading; I propose a new title:

“British Government does not propose making plastic beer glasses compulsory: British Beer and Pub Association says it does not want plastic glasses to be made compulsory.”

The worst thing about the UK is “daily mail” style ignorance, paranoia and hysteria. Perhaps people fall for the “spin” of the article because they have too much trust for the BBC.

The pointy knives article is another great example: three individuals unconnected to government make a sensible suggestion about a flaw in the “default” traditional design of long kitchen knives, (not short knives, where a point is more frequently useful) and it is whipped up into outrage about the supposed “nanny state”.

MikeM September 15, 2009 1:52 AM

Bruce probably finds it difficult to understand this proposal because it makes no sense in a US context – ban glasses, and someone would just pull out a semi-automatic assault rifle and spray the bar with bullets instead.

Despite living in the UK all my life, I’ve never seen a fight in a pub. But I’m willing to accept that they are more common than they would be if the threat of fatal force was more present in society as a whole.

Which approach is right? Both are trade-offs, in the same way as the US could reduce burglary by cutting people’s hands off, but doesn’t because it considers it a cruel punishment.

Which trade-off to go for is a political decision, not a security one. Security blogs should steer clear of politics, just as they should steer clear of forming judgments on foreign countries based only on sensationalist media reports.

joseph September 15, 2009 2:00 AM

“…ban on pointy knives. That recommendation also came out of the UK…”

Actually, that’s from continental Europe. France I believe, where it’s been the case that kitchen knives have blunt tips for some years. I’m surprised at how many security minded people here have posted such ill thought out responses.

Both ideas are the first signs of sensible govenment in a morass on useless legislation.

Government is admitting (at last) that it can’t stop you drinking until violent, and it can’t stop you going into a rage against your wife.

However, it is mitigating the risk of serious injury and murder.

When you have the NHS to pay for, you start to see the value in addressing the most common causes for cost.

Drew September 15, 2009 9:54 AM

First, they ban firearms. Then knives. Then walking sticks, since those could be used as clubs. Then trees, which produce branches from which sticks/clubs could be procured. And stones…let’s not forget stones. We can’t have citizenry in possession of stones.

Oh wait. Maybe it’s not a problem with objects, but what’s in the hearts of men?! We’ve banned religion and morality from the public sphere. And here’s what we have to show for it: the new religion is statism. Something always fills the void.

enigma September 18, 2009 4:53 AM

If you want to address the most common cause, it’s not the glass but the contents of said object you need to look at.

Arguably if pubs sold tea instead of alcohol, you would reduce casualties to zero …

… except of course that you wouldn’t, because pub goers aren’t going to switch from beer to tea any more than pub fighters will refrain from their activity just because you provide tacky plastic containers.

What next, bolt all the stools to the floor, add bubblewrap to the tables, …

The problem with this temporary UK government is that it it seems to think its job is about legislating and running every aspect of peoples lives instead of running the country.

This is why we now have such ridiculous legislation as the proposal to fine people five thousand pounds for taking their neighbours kids to school without first paying for a certificate from the government.

Stop encouraging them.

Oh, and on the whole firearms issue, the UK still has guns. No target shooting sportsmen, just an increase in shootings and gun related crimes.

Gary B September 22, 2009 10:24 AM

Why not make the glasses and bottles out of toughened glass (think old style car windscreens when hit by a stone)? This would make them useless as a weapon if broken.

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