Monday 23 March 2009

Cutting off your nose?

There’s a quite astonishing piece in The Publican from Hamish Champ in which he alleges that belligerent smokers are helping to close pubs by taking their business away. Well, yes, pubs are closing at a rapid rate of knots because of reduced custom from smokers, but the blame for that must be laid squarely at the door of the government.

Smokers are not some uniform, co-ordinated body, and to say they are deliberately shunning pubs as an act of spite is absurd. Plenty of smokers do still go to pubs and put up with having to go outside when they want a fag, but others quite reasonably have decided that isn’t for them and visit much less often, if at all. Everybody does what suits them as individuals, and the number of people who make consumer choices with the conscious intention of “making a point” is minuscule.

If I had to go outside the pub to drink a pint of beer, then I can assure you I would scarcely ever drink except at home. If loads of pubs then shut down I wouldn’t consider it to be my fault, and would regard it as totally unreasonable to be blamed for pub closures.

Champ also says that licensees have gone to great expense to provide smoking facilities within the law. Obviously, given the constraints of many sites, this is often simply impossible, but as a general statement it is very wide of the mark. Most “smoking facilities” are extremely perfunctory and often consist of no more than an awning in a dingy yard next to the bogs. The number of pubs that have made the effort to provide a sizeable covered area with reasonably comfortable chairs and tables is very small. As soon as the weather is clement enough to sit outside, they do reap the benefit, though.


  1. I've never seen so many non sequiturs strung end-to-end as in this article.

  2. I rarely go to my local now as it's simply not enjoyable anymore. No principled stance, just a simple realisation that I can no longer relax in a pub ... which was sort of the point.

    Poppycock from Champ

  3. If you are a smoker and keep having to pop outside it really can take the edge off a good night out. When I was in a Brussels bar smoking it was one the great nights out I have ever had. Meanwhile back at base.....

  4. I think your astonishment at the sense written by such an unlikely source has addled your judgement. You seem to be missing his main point which is not about smoking shelters, but however reluctant you might be, just accept it and get back to the pub.

  5. What's this, smoking hero Hamish falling out of favour? It has to be said he is extreme, even by the standards of the pro-smoking lobby. He was on local TV recently and insisted that 100% of pub closures were due to the ban. No exceptions! Does anyone really pay attention to what he says?

  6. Are commenters confusing Hamish Champ and Blackpool Libertarian Hamish Howitt? Or are they one in the same? In southport good smoking shelters are being targetted by born agains and health facists on Sefton. Council.

  7. SD - Hands up. I confused them even though I read the Publican. Still agree with what he says mind you.

  8. Here is a comment placed on the Publican re Champ and his belligerents.

    Enough is enough I cannot believe the whining that is going on regarding the smoking ban and cheep supermarket booze.
    1) It has always been cheaper to buy booze from either the off license or the supermarket. So please stop moaning. You are only playing into the anti drinks lobby hand.
    2) The pub trade needs to take responsibility for not having fought the smoking ban. Perhaps Camra has a greater responsibility for this. The views expressed in this article resemble the typical 'it's not my fault' scenarios that are put down for us to consume on a daily basis.
    3)Sure the air is cleaner in the pubs I visit, the atmosphere is screwed though. You only have yourselves to blame!
    4)I used to spend upwards of GBP200 per week in pubs, now perhaps GBP30 and do you know what? I miss the pub and the social aspect but......
    5)The trade needs to decide what it wants, if that is smoke free, so be it. If you want customers, start fighting this ban as one, or, join me in the queue at the supermarket and watch your pubs being turned into housing projects. Well, perhaps that is an overstatement given the current economic climate, more likely your pub will become a squat. Whatever you decide please STFU re supermarket booze prices, you only have yourselves to blame.

  9. Tandleman, I'm sorry, but the premise of the original article that smokers would really like to go to pubs but are cutting off their nose to spite their face and staying at home in an attempt to teach licensees a lesson is utterly ludicrous.

    It's only CAMRA members who boycott things to make a point - the general public do what suits them, and if going to a pub where they can't smoke no longer suits smokers then they won't go.

  10. "if going to a pub where they can't smoke no longer suits smokers then they won't go."

    Isn't that a boycott then? Anyway apart from that the premise is they should think again.

  11. It's an interesting question at what point the normal exercise of consumer preferences turns into a boycott. I'm sure you do your best to avoid keg pubs (as do I) but that doesn't necessarily mean we're boycotting them, just not going there because they don't sell what we want.

    Surely "boycotting" something means avoiding doing something you would otherwise normally do with the intention of making a point.

  12. A boycott aims to achieve change; As Curmudgeon says no smoker believes that by stopping going to pubs the ban will be lifted.

  13. My local was, what you would consider a "old man's pub" - traditional decoration, regular guest beer, a landlord that spent 95% of his time chatting to his customers, welcoming new folk and so forth. Prior to 2007 it was a lovely place to be. Homey almost.

    Not now. It's dull, lifeless and almost sterile. It's been under new management at least a dozen times since the ban. I haven't been in there for about 5 years now. I doubt I will ever go back in.


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