Monday, 14 March 2011

She would say that, wouldn’t she?

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)
So hardly someone who could be expected to take a dispassionate view of tobacco-related issues. Turkeys are never going to support an early Christmas.

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?

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.
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.

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.


  1. If you check up on Linda Bauld on the net (as I have done), you will find that she only ever conducts 'research' into anti-smoking issues. She is a member of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, IIRC. As such, everything she ever produces has a pre-determined outcome she is paid to fulfil.

    There are quite a number of them around. The alcohol industry should look to identify the same kind of shyster being employed to produce junk science against them too. Who knows? They may well turn out to be the same people at some point.

    One thing you can be sure of with anything pumped out by Bauld, science it certainly isn't, and scientist she certainly isn't.

  2. From Dave Atherton

    Well CM you can see why I find the health lobby such a bunch of liars on passive smoking. Bauld is a colleague at Bath of Dr. Anna Gilmore who fabricated the reduction in heart attacks in England, and have co authored papers together.

    If you fancy a chuckle her is the URL of Dr. Vivienne Nathanson's doctor colleague's wine club at the BMA.

  3. Dave - you may chuckle at the BMA wine club

    this could be the cause of long lasting nausea!
    It would be so interesting to discover where this witches' coven get funding for their impartial. science based, predetermined agenda.

  4. Anna Gilmore is apparantly funded by CRUK using money people thought thatthey had donated for real research into cancer. You know, a bit like the stuff Paul Whitley does in a nearby building.

    So is another familiar figure

  5. Totally off topic, I'm sorry.
    Thanks for your review on 'Summer Lightening' some time ago.
    I bought some yesterday (still on offer) and for the first time in years drank something other than Guinness.
    Its back on the list, superb.

  6. Dr Murray Earle15 March 2011 at 12:21

    I think you may be shooting the messenger here.

    That this looks different on the ground to one pub landlord is statistically irrelevant. As a real ale drinker (and smoker, BTW), I find your addition of a link telling me that “Pubs closed in England since 1st July 2007” (7460) to be a lamentable statistic. But as a researcher I have to ask what else happened after July 2007, and the abbreviated answer is this:

    5 July 2007: The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee today voted to raise the official Bank Rate paid on commercial bank reserves by 0.25 percentage points to 5.75%.

    July 2007: Bear Stearns fails in its bail-out attempt

    August 2007: The European Central Bank pumps 95bn euros (£63bn) into the banking market to try to improve liquidity .

    14 September 2007, Northern Rock sought and received a liquidity support facility from the Bank of England following problems in the credit markets caused by the US subprime mortgage financial crisis.

    1 October 2007: Swiss bank UBS announces losses of $3.4bn from sub-prime related investments.

    30 October 2007: Merrill Lynch's chief resigns after the investment bank unveils a $7.9bn exposure to bad debt.

    9 January 2008: World Bank predicts that global economic growth will slow in 2008, as the credit crunch hits the richest nations.

    13 October 2008: Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HBOS have a total of £37bn injected into them.

    And so on …

    Turning to logic - and with apologies to Bertie Russell - when two events occur simultaneously, no more can be said than there is a positive correlation between the two. Establishing a causal link between the two requires statistical evidence that A would not have occurred but for the existence of B. Because this is absent, events A and B are independent, particularly in the face of the simultaneous occurrence of event C.

    In other words, for your argument to hold water, you require a statistically significant fall in sales, that (obviously) cannot at least in part be accounted for by the so-called ‘credit crunch’, in which case you might be onto something.

    All of which might just lead any researcher worth their salt to opine that fall in trade had more to do with the credit crunch than the smoking ban, where evidence for the latter is anecdotal at best. Oh, and where statistically significant evidence for the converse is relatively abundant, for example,

    Dr Murray Earle
    Researcher and Writer (medical law)

  7. "... no evidence of any obvious effect of smoke-free legislation on the hospitality industry in England".

    "... a longer post-legislation follow-up period is required to more robustly assess whether smoke-free legislation in the UK has had a significant impact on bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues".

    "... amy impact of smoke-free legislation on the sector is minimal".

    All quotes from the report. Minimal impact, positive or negative , mainly due to the paucity of data.

    One that did catch my eye - international research that showed no significant decrease in bar patronage post-ban. Which is supported by Mark Daniels' observation.

    btw - I assume the report is DoH funded as it's a review of health legislation impact. And maybe the reason why Professor Bauld "only ever" researches smoking (which isn't actually the case) is that it's her specialism?

  8. Given her declared allegiances it would appear her specialism is antismoking.

  9. But surely, if we all stopped smoking, Professor Bauld would be looking for a new line of work - so in this instance we actually do have a turkey voting for xmas, what?

  10. Well, I don't think there's much chance of that, but it's not hard to guess what new line of work she'd be likely to take up.

  11. "I hope that in 10 years’ time we will be much closer to the situation where smoking is no longer as socially acceptable. That’s what this ban is about - cultural change." - Dr Linda Bauld, April. 2007.
    It would seem the messenger is far from impartial when assessing if the smoking ban will have any adverse affects on anything let alone pubs and the customers that use them.

  12. From Dave Atherton

    @Dr. Murray Earle

    As my article goes on to say an analysis of pub closures during equally bad or worse recessions.

    "There are alternative explanations – the rate of closures would be expected to increase during an economic slowdown, for example. Yet the closure rate quadrupled in 2007 before the onset of the recession. Moreover, the closure rate in 2008 and 2009, at around 3% per year, has been far higher than in previous recessions. For example, in the deep recession of 1980-82 the average was 0.86%, while in 1990-92 it was 1.5%."

  13. There was also an analysis done by CGI Strategy which demonstrated a marked "above trend" increase in the rate of pub closures associated with the smoking ban.

    @Dave Atherton - Dave, if you use the "Name/URL" option when making a comment, you can associate your own name with it even if you don't have a Blogger account, rather than having it appear as "Anonymous".

  14. @Curmudgeon

    The Google accounts etc have password issues with me.

    BTW Dr. Murray Earle works for the Scottish Parliament.

  15. @Murray Earle: the counter in the side bar does not claim that all those pubs have been closed by the smoking ban. It is just a statistic of the total number of pubs that have closed. Now, I remember the ban enthusiasts claiming that it would open up a new golden age of non-smokers flocking into pubs. That, quite obviously, didn't happen. So, in effect, what the counter is recording is something that didn't happen.


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