Tuesday 26 January 2010

Majority, what majority?

It’s often claimed by supporters of the smoking ban in pubs that it is supported by a majority of the population. Sometimes it’s claimed that it enjoys the support of a large majority, or even overwhelming support.

But, as Simon Clark points out, that just ain’t so. The latest edition of the annual British Social Attitudes survey says:

In Britain as a whole, the majority support a smoking ban, with just seven per cent saying that smoking should be freely allowed. However, the level of restriction, whether a complete ban or simply restricted to certain areas, divides the public.

While just under half (46 per cent) support a ban on smoking in pubs and bars altogether, a similar proportion (41 per cent) prefer limiting smoking to certain areas of pubs and bars.
In fact, this survey – which, as it is carried out by the government and thus can’t be accused of having an anti-ban axe to grind – has never shown a majority of people to be in favour of a blanket smoking ban in pubs and bars, which suggests that they do not regard them as genuinely public areas but rather part of the licensee’s space where they are allowed in as guests.


  1. As we have always been in the majority, can we have an amendment?


  2. I think those results reflect the dilemma people have between the advantages of not smoking and the damage they've seen the ban do to pubs and their nights out. As ever, a compromise seems the most sensible solution. The 46% are probably people who don't smoke and would be happy to see it stay that way, while the 41% are the majority of smokers and a few non-smokers who want the "old atmosphere" back.

  3. Of greater relevance than percentages of what the population think, it appears that one side care more passionately about it than the other. Whilst preferring a smoking ban, I can never really say I was that bothered about it and remain not overly fussed. The pro smokers do appear to care a little more about it. Any government could I guess win votes from one side and not lose that many from the other.

  4. Martin Taylor, Cambridge27 January 2010 at 19:49

    I definitely don't want people to smoke, it does kill, but given that we have a free choice about smoking I'd much rather people were allowed to smoke with the permission of the pub owner.

    Pubs are, to my mind, the worse for the lack of smokers.


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