A recent report commissioned by the Department of Health has apparently found that the smoking ban has had “no clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry.” That is more than a little hard to believe when pretty much every pub operator reporting results over the past three years has referred to the adverse impact of the ban on sales, and when there is such a weight of anecdotal evidence from individual licensees that they have lost trade from it.
However, let’s look at the author of the research, Professor Linda Bauld. According to her official University of Bath profile, her professional interests include:
- Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health on Tobacco Control
- Vice-chair of Cancer Research UK’s Tobacco Advisory Group
- Member of the ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Advisory Council
- Member of the Smokefree South West Programme Board
- Member of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco (INWAT)
You also have to ask why such a report was commissioned by the Department of Health anyway. If you’re looking at the effects on business, surely it is the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills who should be taking the lead, as the DoH have an inbuilt interest in skewing the results.
Mark Daniels (who is very much in the “live with it and move on” camp) surely has it right here when he says:
Any survey can have its data skewed in a manner to achieve the result which is felt is needed, and I’m sure restaurants and hotels have probably not seen a negative response from 2007’s ban, but who can ignore the dramatic rise in the closures of public houses and bingo halls after its introduction, and the drop in footfall for businesses such as nightclubs?He makes the important point that, while many smokers continue to use pubs (albeit fewer than before), they do so in a different way that means they spend less time there and put less money across the bar.
I’ve often chuckled to myself when people ask what sort of impact the smoking ban has had on my business. The honest answer is that I have only lost a handful of customers walking through the door, but they now use the pub differently, and for a much shorter amount of time in an evening than they ever did before. The net result in the first year was a drop of 40% in my takings - and that hurt.
It would be good if some of those who supported the ban in 2007 had the honestly to come out and say that, whatever its merits, it has had a seriously detrimental effect on the pub trade. I’ve yet to hear it, though – to a man (and woman) they remain mired in denial.