Sunday, 22 November 2009

An old soldier speaks

This letter from a resident of Thame in Oxfordshire really sums up what an atrocity the smoking ban has proved to be:

The result of that has been the collapse of social networks, of organic resorts of camaraderie among some people, often the old and frail. Look at some of the sites on the Net devoted to campaigning for an amendment of the smoking law and read of the sadness and bitterness, not only among pub regulars but among elderly and isolated folk, whose one day out was a visit to a Bingo hall, now closed - because of the ban...

After the ban, however, despite being a non smoker, I felt no desire to spend money in sterile, half-empty pubs out of which the heart and social stuffing had been kicked - and by, of all groups, the party which represents the working class. I suspect that that alone will have done for much of Gordon Brown's vote.

11 comments:

  1. But most people prefer pubs without smoke, and lots of people who never set foot in them before the legislation was enacted are now frequent customers. So unfortunately that quote's from someone living on another planet.

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  2. The smoking ban is here and is not going anywhere. Campaigning for a repeal or the right of licensees to be able to decide their own policy (which amounts to the same thing) is politically impossible, as the anti smoking lobby is very strong and more importantly, a repeal would mean politicians admitting that they were wrong.

    The only campaign I see having even a slim chance of success would be a campaign to allow pubs to establish a separate smoking area, of limited percentage floor space, which is enclosed from the rest of the premises and can be avoided by non smokers.

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  3. That sounds like a lovely place to be. Who's going to want to sit in such a room? Solitary individuals who'd rather smoke than socialise, perhaps, but others will remain in the better parts of the pub with friends and might as well nip out for some fresh air when they want to smoke.

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  4. Jeffrey: Are you in a society which advocates the majority stamping out choices of the majority, or do you believe that everyone should have a place?

    It's a serious question.

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  5. But most people prefer pubs without smoke

    Most people prefer lager to real ale. Should we ban real ale, then? The experience of Wetherspoons, who had to cancel their programme of converting pubs to all non-smoking before the ban as trade fell off a cliff, certainly suggests otherwise. Most people really weren't that bothered. And, before the ban, the government (yes, the government) carried out an annual opinion poll on various social attitudes. It always showed a majority in favour of the proposition that "smoking should be allowed in separate areas of pubs and bars".

    and lots of people who never set foot in them before the legislation was enacted are now frequent customers

    All the anecdotal evidence points exactly the opposite way – a substantial net loss of customers, and any numbers of new customers being attracted being utterly trivial, and generally not people who will spend much time in the pub anyway. As a licensee said whom I quoted back in 2007, "We've had a slide of about 10 to 20 per cent. I'd like to know where the nonsmokers that were supposed to be coming into pubs when the ban was introduced are. I haven't seen any…"

    So unfortunately that quote's from someone living on another planet

    Well, it certainly accords with my own experience. Perhaps occasionally you should beam down from Planet Clerkenwell to Planet Earth to find out what's really going on.

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  6. That sounds like a lovely place to be. Who's going to want to sit in such a room? Solitary individuals who'd rather smoke than socialise, perhaps, but others will remain in the better parts of the pub with friends and might as well nip out for some fresh air when they want to smoke.

    Well, I imagine a lot of smokers would be more favourably disposed to going to the pub if they could have a fag indoors rather than having to go outside in the freezing cold and pissing rain.

    And you may remember that, before the ban, where pubs did have non-smoking areas, they were normally the quietest areas of the pub and the last to fill up. The vast majority of people chose to remain and socialise in the areas where smoking was permitted and nobody was excluded. The only exception to this was when customers were eating.

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  7. A separate smoking area is a compromise. I don't smoke and I prefer smoke free pubs, but I do think that smokers should be accommodated too. It's only fair.

    You will get more support for the right to limited smoking areas than you will for a reversal of the ban and it allows the politicians to look like they are being magnanimous rather than backing down.

    If you think you can make any politician do a complete 180 on the issue, think again. That would make them look weak and indecisive.

    If, on the other hand, you manage to make it look like a win for the government, you are more likely to see it happen.

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  8. What is being asked for by the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign is to allow licensees to have separate smoking rooms if they choose, not for a complete reversal of the ban. I would accept that the chances of this succeeding are probably well under 50%, but they are certainly not zero.

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  9. Jeffrey: ... might as well nip out for some fresh air when they want to smoke.

    I don't know what country you live in, Jeffrey, but did you see the weather in the UK on Saturday night?

    I think 'fresh 30 mile an hour wind and driving rain' would be a better description. A little less pleasant, I'd say.

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  10. Sean: A separate smoking area is a compromise. I don't smoke and I prefer smoke free pubs, but I do think that smokers should be accommodated too. It's only fair.

    That is exactly what smokers are asking for. And exactly what anti-smokers can't seem to understand.

    What I find staggering (and even funny in a depressing way) is that CAMRA members, generally, seem to be the most intransigently set against the obvious benefits of such an inclusive system.

    I mean, the signs are already heavily set in place for their vice to be demonised next.

    The advertising ban is imminent, and the POS ad ban won't be far behind.

    Lessons of history are arrogantly not being learned, methinks.

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  11. "What I find staggering (and even funny in a depressing way) is that CAMRA members, generally, seem to be the most intransigently set against the obvious benefits of such an inclusive system.

    I mean, the signs are already heavily set in place for their vice to be demonised next."

    Agree. Such half measure would get some smokers back. Not me personally, at least not too often.
    As it stands, the divide and concur strategy will keep many smokers silent if the first wave of assault would only target drinking in public or limit public drinking.

    flex

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