There’s an excellent article on Sp!ked today by musician Joe Jackson entitled How killjoys colonised Britain’s public houses, in which he argues that “the smoking ban, on top of strict licensing laws and CCTV, has turned pubs from places of choice and tolerance into outlets for official meddling.”
Though I’m personally infuriated by the ban – which forbids smoking in enclosed public spaces and enclosed workplaces – and don’t believe that it’s doing anything for anyone’s health, I don’t claim that it’s the only factor in the decline of a once-great British institution. But I do believe it has had an insidious effect, which needs to be more widely recognised. Traditionally, a pub is supposed to offer hospitality, tolerance, free choice, and a place to relax away from official interference. The ban goes against all of this. It also sets a terrible precedent by overruling the property rights of publicans, and prohibiting adult citizens from negotiating their own arrangements – in this case, with regard to a perfectly legal habit.He also – perhaps surprisingly to many – says that British pubs are now far more regimented and restricted than their counterparts in Germany, especially Berlin:
I’ve always loved English pubs, but just how awful they are becoming wasn’t completely clear to me until I relocated a couple of years ago to Berlin. While too many pubs these days are soulless, generic commercial enterprises, staffed by people who clearly don’t give a damn, Berlin bars are often wonderfully idiosyncratic, and operated and patronised by people who clearly love them.