Friday, 17 August 2007

What I say, not what I do

There have been a number of opinion polls such as this one suggesting that people are more likely to visit pubs following the smoking ban. However, you need to discount the inbuilt bias in such polls that some respondents will give the answers they think the pollsters want to hear, rather than what they genuinely feel – hence why polls always understate Conservative support at general elections.

And when you look at the detail it doesn’t necessarily agree with the headline anyway. The number of non-smokers saying they were actually visiting pubs more often was 32%, compared with 47% who said before the ban they would – clearly showing that reality does not always accord with expectation. On the other hand, 45% of smokers said they were going to pubs less post-ban.

These results also take no account of the frequency of visits – if those who went once a month now went twice a month, but those who went four times a week now went twice a week, overall it would lead to a substantial downturn in trade. This reinforces the oft-expressed view that the smoking ban is a means of changing pubs to fit in with the tastes of people who aren’t, and never will be, regular pubgoers.

The evidence is clear on the ground that wet-led pubs have lost trade following the ban, in some cases only marginally, in others very significantly. The only true measure is the hard facts on takings, not the results of opinion polls.

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