Thursday, 8 July 2010

Give us the choice

We keep hearing claims from the antismoking lobby that the licensed trade has “accepted” the smoking ban and “moved on”. But, according to a recent poll in the Morning Advertiser, there continues to be a very strong belief that it has damaged the business of pubs and needs to be amended, if not completely scrapped. 64% of respondents believed that the ban had been terrible or bad for business, with 76% - more than three quarters - saying a separate smoking room should be allowed. Even three years later, 49% believed that the ban should be completely scrapped, with, presumably, a further 27% believing it needed to be relaxed to some extent.

Only 32% said the ban had encouraged a new type of customer into outlets, and there was no comment as to whether those outnumbered or even made up for those who had been deterred. On the flip side, 23% said the ban had a neutral effect, 10% a good effect and 3% that it had an excellent effect on trade. One can only imagine those are poncy dining pubs where clearing out the riff-raff is seen as a desirable objective.

It is very clear from this survey that, despite the deluded, ostrich-like views of ban apologists, this continues to be a live issue for the trade and is not going to go away any day soon.


  1. What you mean is the moaning isn't going to go away any day soon. The ban isn't just for pubs you know.

    Move on Mudgie.

  2. "More than three out of four licensees would support the introduction of a separate, well-ventilated smoking room in pubs."

    Fine, except for one thing: although I have been drinking in pubs since the early 1970s, I have never come across a ventilation system that worked adequately. At best they merely provided some relief, rather than clear air.

    Was this a scientifically selected survey? Because if not, then it's a fact that people who are dissatisfied with an issue are much more likely to respond than people who have no grouse. The results would be correspondingly skewed.

  3. As I've said before, while this blog isn't solely or even primarily about the smoking ban, the ban was what prompted me to set it up and remains one of its core themes. The passage of time doesn't make it any more justifiable, and I certainly have no intention of "letting it go". If you don't like it, you don't have to read it. Perhaps it is you who should "move on" from your tedious, repetitive, hackneyed bigotry.

  4. My repeated view about smoking is I couldn't give a monkey's chuff, if it didn't make me, my clothes and my hair stink (and the smoker who sits near me stink.) I don't care about the health aspect per se, though clearly it is better if people don't.

    Like RedNev, I have never experienced a "well ventilated room" that actually works. So bang the drum all you want. Attach it to civil liberties if you care to, but I just don't want to smell.

  5. Well said Curm. I anticipate extraction systems like we have never see before. It is true that in the past there was little consideration for air quailty - even we smokers find it unpleasant above a certain level. To placate those who want to control my social life and others' livelihoods, I would prefer that smoking rooms had separate entrances, with any pub of small area choosing smoking or non smoking.
    Perhaps you and your friends in the drink business could get together and sponsor a demonstration of the latest air cleaning/extraction technology, which could then be placed on You Tube.
    And no, we haven't moved on. This won't go away. For the next decade, at least, 20% of the population will be smokers as will 40% of pub goers. Joe Public thinks nothing can be done, so he doesn't complain. Watch the floodgates open when he realises that this ban can be amended. The anti-smokers will be cruising through History suburbs towards Toast City, with little time to admire the view

  6. Tandleman, so your fundamental objection is purely of the "I don't like it, I want it banned" variety, which is the height of intolerance. Now you are perfectly entitled to not like something and to arrange your life so as to avoid it as far as possible, but surely that objection could be met by permitting smoking and non-smoking establishments, so you would never have to venture in those that allowed smoking. Now, obviously, if one of the smoking establishments was selling a particular beer you wanted to try, then it would be up to you whether to go in to have a drop and end up smelling of smoke. Would the prize be worth the cost?

  7. But Mudgie. I don't have to arrange my life in any inconvenient way any more. I did before as some pubs were just intolerable. The Marble Arch was one. Smokers have to do the inconvenience thing and their inconvenience is relatively minor. They can go anywhere at all, but for the duration of their fix, they can't contaminate others.

    Your solution seems to be of the "better punish 99 innocent people than let one guilty man go free ilk". Nothing hugely tolerant about that I'd venture.

    Being polluted to the point of stinking isn't an inconvenience. It is nasty, requires showers before bed, discarding for washing of all of your clothes when you get home etc, while standing outside for five minutes every so often is just that. Inconvenient.

    Your solution is loaded in that not many business would take the chance of missing out on custom that others might grab. How about a referendum like the Bavarians? That'd be democratic (in a way at least.) Would you fancy your argument's chances in that?

  8. "I have never come across a ventilation system that worked adequately"

    It doesn't matter a jot if you never have to enter that room. Dogs and mangers.

  9. Whether to allow smoking in Council owned premises such as libraries could be decided by a referendum, but smoking in private property, when it doesn't affect people outside that property, shouldn't be a subject of a referendum. In all other areas of life we've moved away from that: most famously when homosexual sex acts were legalised.
    Tandleman, everyone finds some licenced premises intolerable and they avoid them. I don't say that a certain place would be great if it stopped playing pounding dance music, changed the decor and became a beer lovers' paradise. That would be ridiculous. It exists for people who like pounding dance music and don't care what they drink. In the same way, the Marble Arch existed for people who liked the beer, the unique ambience and weren't bothered about the smoke. In the late 80s it was owned by a smoker, so suggesting it is almost your right that it be smoke free becomes even more ridiculous. If only some pubs were intolerable, why not go to the tolerable ones. You wouldn't have been missing your drinking buddies as you obviously despised their disgusting habit and their weak-willed addiction. You claim that smokers' inconvenience is relatively minor, yet later suggest that is so major that every pub will become a smoking pub in order to alleviate it. That is the problem in getting this ban amended. How to get anti smokers to take up drinking in a bigger way, visit pubs more often and let go of the apron strings of their smoking aquaintances. You need to form your own social groups and open your own pubs. You despise us and if I now visited pubs, I'd be annoyed if the door was continually opening and closing on a freezing evening. Why have smokers around you? Can't you sort your own life out without interfering in other peoples?

  10. Tandleman,I quite agree but I really think drinkers spoil the atmosphere of pubs too. Only the other day the current Mrs Eich and I was trying to enjoy a cheap meal for two in a pub and the place absolutely reeked of alcohol everywhere. Why can't drinkers just take it outside? Why don't they realise that people who don't drink do not want to put up with it any longer? Why do they have to spoil it for the rest of us? When I am trying to enjoy my meal and an orange juice in a local pub why should I have to put up with filthy,dirty drinkers filling the air with cancer causing chemicals . It's just not fair. Take it outside! Selfish,dirty,filthy drinkers.

  11. Tandleman - you are always having to arrange your life to avoid things you don't like. I suspect you don't go in pubs with no cask beer, or pubs playing earsplitting music - which overall is probably most of them. So if you feel so strongly about it, why shouldn't you avoid smoky pubs too?

    Your solution sounds very much like preventing people from doing something anywhere, just because you personally don't like it. Not very liberal that, is it?

    And before the ban I don't believe the vast majority of people felt the need to have an extra shower and put all their clothes in the wash after every visit to the pub - that suggests an extreme reaction.

    As for the Bavarian referendum, that is a classic example of exercising the tyranny of the majority. A free society depends on putting up with things others do you that you don't like and find distasteful. If the drinkers in your local held a vote and decided that everyone had to drink lager and pongy ale was banned you wouldn't be best pleased, would you?

  12. Mudgie. Fallacious nonsense and you know it. Better a tyranny of the majority than the opposite though that can be taken too far too. The MA is just as packed now but not as smelly but you won't be convinced I know. Nobody gives a shit about smoking in the pub going context other than stinking. It's the smell Stoopid!

  13. It is NOT fallacious nonsense - it is what I sincerely believe to be the truth. One more accusation of lying and you will be banned from commenting on this blog.

    And the Marble Arch may be as packed as ever, but thousands of other pubs aren't, not to mention the thousands more that have been closed down.

  14. Suit yourself. Misleading nonsense then or misplaced nonsense. Still nonsense whatever you believe. I don't think you are lying, just talking rot. Ban away. You'll still be welcome to trot your tosh on my blog. Uncensored. Not moderated. No permissions or approvals. No deletions either the way it always has been.

  15. Well, the truth certainly touches a raw nerve with you, doesn't it?

  16. No Mudgie. However you dress it up, smoking makes everyone stink. That's the weak spot in your argument. You can't get round that. You can ban me but the truth is smokers cause themselves and others to stink. It isn't a civil liberties argument. It is a stink argument for most pub goers who dont smoke.

  17. Mr Tandleman
    Dont like smelling of smoke eh,
    obviously some sort of pen pusher
    who has never had to work where men really stink.
    If you want a fresh air tavern ,good luck to you,but dont inflict your small minded restrictions on the other 54000
    pubs in th Uk. Let the landlord and his customers decide the issue,then lets see how "popular"
    the total ban is.

    Sink Estate Supper

  18. I believe the MA polled 146 licencees in their poll. Hardly conclusive is it?

  19. I never said it was conclusive - I'm just reporting the news. It's just a straw poll - although the results of straw polls can be quite telling.

    But who would fund a genuinely impartial poll on this subject amongst a representative sample of licensees?

    And, even if such a poll was commissioned by a pro-choice group, would it be accepted as unbiased?

  20. Oh dear, Tandie, it's the stink, is it? Well, even taking your comments at face value, if some people create a stink, surely they should be allowed places where they (and others who don't mind the stink) can gather socially. If we had a campaign against smelly people, half the population of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury would be in the Gulag.

    And, looking back to the days before the ban, most pubgoers were happy to gather in places where smoking was allowed. Wholly non-smoking pubs did conspicuously poor business, and in those pubs that had non-smoking areas, they were generally the last to fill up. That suggests that you had a grossly untypical aversion to the "stink" of tobacco smoke - and thus must be regarded as a far-out extremist on this issue.

  21. So it's just "the stink" then?

    Fuck all to do with the phantom SHS which the ban was based on?

  22. While I'm not entering this minefield (apart from commenting that the smoking ban is plainly here to stay - how people deal with that is entirely up to them) - I would take issue with you suggestion that the results of a straw poll can be "quite telling".

    I think you used the same argument about cider drinking when you held a similar poll on your blog and this frankly told us nothing at all about the state of the cider market - record sales at Stockport Beer Festival and the increasing number of pubs taking the stuff illustrated that.

  23. John Clarke, Why do you think the smoking ban is here to stay? For how long can the majority justify giving 0% of inside public space for smokers to smoke in when clearly there is so much space available?
    The position is untenable! I have a feeling that most people in this country are actually quite fair and have an understanding that intolerance is unacceptable if human society is to function. So I have every hope that the smoking ban will be amended because I have faith in the goodness of people. I have about as much faith in the smoking ban lasting as a smoke-free ban lasting if smokers were in the majority. It would be unjustifiable to make 100% of space available for smokers, by law, against the wishes of people who owned those places. It can't last, the question is how much damage will it do to the fabric of human society before something is done about it.

  24. It's not about health, but control9 July 2010 at 13:32

    I have a workable solution. All the miserable, whining, anti-smoking fascists can fuck off to an island in Micronesia and leave the rest of us in peace. All the fresh air you can handle down there. Feel free to take the socialists with you.

  25. Hmmm, this old ding-dong again.

    I used to smoke and as a licensee, as I was then, it would have been hard for me to give up without the ban. Smokers do smell. Pubs used to smell before the ban. Even when I smoked, in the morning, the pub stank before the ban and I noticed that as a smoker.

    Pre-ban it was obvious that something should be done and despite the fact that there are technical solutions available by way of superb ventilation, it just wasn't implemented in most pubs. Yes, some ventilation can be extremely good, I used to work in the nuclear industry where it had to be.

    In one of my new locals the majority of the customers and staff smoke. There are times when there is long row of half finished drinks on the bar and everyone goes outside for a tab. There are two rooms in this pub. One could have been made into a smoking room, why not?

    I agree that legislation was required. I also agree that significant wholesale reversal of the law is unlikely and undesirable. But why 100% ban? Why, indeed, when the ban was being planned, where some pubs planned ahead and built smoking shelters only to find that the less than 50% enclosure rule made their shelter obsolete.

    I think the ban has made the pub industry better, generally. It has been part of the reason for an increase in pub closures and many of them are better off closed anyway. Some marginal pubs have probably also closed that never deserved to, how much of that is due to the ban is a moot point.

    I can't follow the view that the ban is here and we should just live with it. We live in a democracy and all legislation on the statute book should be available for review. I would like to see smokers continue to become a shrinking minority, but I also think that they deserve the right to be able to enjoy their vice in a social setting. Perhaps only in a detached building, for instance, or in a room with 10 air changes an hour and an air lock entrance to keep us non-smokers out of harm.

    Whatever, I can't accept that the argument is dead.

  26. Good post Hardknott. I'm anon 17.44. This campaign plainly won't end. It's been going three years and, if anything, is getting stronger. Even if the move to amend the ban is unsuccessful, smokers will get more militant - not in a violent way, just a general undercurrent of hostility, a divided society, arguments about smoking in beer gardens, standing more inside than out of pub doorways - generally an unpleasant atmosphere. There have been small changes. The ban on smoking in work vehicles is widely flouted and nobody is interested. Smoking areas have or are being reintroduced airside at Manchester Airport. There are now smoking facilities beyond passport control in T2, near to gate 300. It will be a first if a Government can maintain a law which results in a significant minority of the population no longer, or very seldom, spending its leisure time inside non-residential buildings.

  27. @Tandleman. Smokers have to do the inconvenience thing and their inconvenience is relatively minor

    How DARE you suggest that our 'inconvenience' is a minor thing!

    It's all very well for you beer-swilling camra blokes to stand around on the street, smoking, but it's a bloody long way from being a mere 'inconvenience' to a great many older women, just as intended by the tobacco control people. I suspect you rather enjoy it, too.

    If it's come to a choice between an uncomfortable session in the pub/cafe/bingo hall or smoking in the street, we'll have neither, thanks.

    I, for one, am extremely grateful to the Pub Curmudgeon for keeping this topic alive. The debate is certainly not over and I do sense a very welcome groundswell of opinion that the current ban is unnecessarily draconian and that the benefits aren't at all worth the negatives.

    Please don't ban Tandleman. His cries of 'stink!stink!stink!' are at least honest. I wonder how many non-smokers realise how the smell of damp clings, especially without the benefit of smoke to mask the fustiness and kill the spores? It's surprising how many people live in damp houses. Being used to the smell, they just can't tell.


  28. I haven't banned him - but his comment of "fallacious nonsense and you know it" was out of order.

    Even if you violently disagree with someone, at least do them the credit of accepting that their views are sincerely held.

  29. Somebody upthread wrote:

    While I'm not entering this minefield (apart from commenting that the smoking ban is plainly here to stay - how people deal with that is entirely up to them)

    How is that these people can see the future? Why don't I have the same gift myself? Which horse is going to win the 3:30 at Kempton Park?

    I think that anyone who says that the ban is here to stay is really just expressing what they'd like to see happen.

    My own guess is that the ban will be amended as the damage it has done to the hospitality business and to the social fabric of society and to much else eventually becomes clear.

    And what's all this about 'stink'? Whether someone does or doesn't like a particular odour is a value judgment. Some people like some odours, and dislike others. If some people don't like the smell of tobacco smoke, then they're just as likely to think that garlic or fish or roast beef 'stinks' as well.

    This isn't going to go away.

  30. Indeed it has often been commented that removing the smell of tobacco smoke revealed various other unpleasant (to many) odours in pubs such as urine, sweat, flatulence, disinfectant and stale food.

  31. I spent a week popping onto the Your Freedom site and posting words of support for an amendment to the ban. It felt exactly like banging my head against a particularly sturdy wall. I learned that anti-smokers have closed minds on the subject, and that is that.

    But that doesn't actually matter, as the anti-smoking hoi polloi have as much swing as the pro-choice hoi polloi do, i.e. none. Cold, hard financial reality will be the deciding factor (at least with pubs), as Frank Davis surmises above.

    Tip to any politicians reading (heh): that is how you should sell this thing, as a reintroduction of choice. Choice = positive. (You know, like 'hope' and 'change'). Inferring that the adult populace has the intelligence to make their own decisions is also unlikely to go down badly.

  32. Instead of making these bans why don't they do segregation. In bars there should be two rooms- one for smokers and one for non smokers. That will make everyone happy!

  33. I would take issue with your suggestion that the results of a straw poll can be "quite telling"

    Obviously a straw poll isn't a scientific survey, but if opinions are asked for, a lot of people volunteer one view and very few the opposing view, it surely signifies something.

    I'm sure if the results had said that 76% of licensees were entirely happy with the ban, the likes of ASH would have been shouting it from the rooftops.


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