Friday, 24 June 2011

Half a loaf

Let me make it quite clear that my personal view is that there was no need for any form of legislation restricting smoking in licensed premises. Prior to July 2007, the market was already responding to meet the demand for non-smoking areas. The vast majority of food-oriented pubs had a substantial non-smoking area (including all Wetherspoons). Many were over 80% non-smoking; some had banned smoking entirely. A growing number of community and wet-led pubs were also providing non-smoking areas. Although some antis will exercise selective memory and deny this, in most areas of the country it wasn’t at all difficult to find somewhere you could have a drink in a non-smoking atmosphere, if that was what you wanted.

Realistically, if they believed in freedom of choice, anyone who wanted to promote non-smoking areas should have been trying to convince licensees to provide them, and demonstrate that there was a genuine demand, rather than campaigning dog-in-the-manger style for a blanket ban.

Both before and after the ban, various compromise solutions were proposed that would have restricted smoking to some degree but not outlawed it in all indoor areas. These included:
  1. Banning smoking in pubs serving food, but allowing it in those that didn’t
  2. Allowing smoking to continue in private clubs, but not in pubs
  3. Allowing separate smoking and non-smoking pubs (much the same as 1)
  4. Allowing smoking in separate rooms in pubs without either a bar or table service
  5. Allowing smoking in pubs and bars that have no staff apart from the proprietor
  6. Allowing the current “smoking shelters” to be expanded to fully-enclosed, heated “smoking huts”
All of these have their advantages and disadvantages, which I don’t propose to go into in detail. Some are more practical than others. The first two were for a time declared government policy. All are a step backward from the pre July 2007 situation. But, in their different ways, all would be an improvement on the current position, and would at the same time give some succour to the licensed trade while enhancing social life for both smokers and non-smokers. Half a loaf is, after all, better than no loaf at all.

But, of course, the real reason why the antismokers are not prepared to concede any ground whatsoever is that it would rapidly and clearly demonstrate the lack of demand for entirely non-smoking venues, at least as far as wet trade was concerned.

Imagine, for example, the pub that has been allowed to erect a fully-enclosed, heated smoking hut. Inside the hut, it’s rammed and there’s a lively flow of banter. In the main part of the pub, there’s a handful of diners, a white-bearded bore holding his glass up to the light saying “The London Pride’s drinking well tonight” and a constant troop of merry hut denizens to and from the bar.


  1. Ah, the lament of the frustrated social engineer. Damn those flesh-and-blood people and their free will. If only they would conform!

  2. I think the smoking-ban is probably the strongest symbol of the times in which we live and as such, deserves greater discussion, not total ignorance of the facts. And if the mainstream refuses to discuss it, then it is appropriate to discuss it on the blogs. Smoking bans are based on a huge fraud about second-hand-smoke and designed to take property rights and liberties away from business owners and individuals and hand them over to the state and land developers. If that is not a major concern, then I don't know what is. It's especially debatable since the establishment of stand-alone smoking rooms would have settled the entire purported issue without it resulting in the more major issue of taking of freedoms it has now become. I'm very glad to hear it still kept alive on blogs such as this and others. If some wish to bury their heads in the sand and continue ignoring it, then they may find themselves burying their heads in shame in the future, when the truth on the matter is no longer taboo and becomes common knowledge, simply that the entire smoking ban is erected on a pile of lies one mile wide and a half a mile thick and quietly upheld by those who would be so selfish as to deny rights to others on a false pretence while ignoring the damage done to economy, liberty, freedom and peoples' lives.

  3. Why do some people still think that second hand smoke is a magic lie invented by the stubborn none-smoker. Absolute nonsense!

  4. There's plenty of evidence that it doesn't represent a significant health risk. See here, for example.

    In fact there's no evidence reaching accepted scientific confidence factors that it does.

    If people dislike it, fine, but surely that objection can be overcome by having separate smoking and non-smoking sections in pubs proportionate to the market demand.

  5. I can imagine that it's pretty similar to not wearing a mask whilst taking furniture making (sanding aspects) of which was my degree for 3 years, which ruined my lungs making cough worse than ever before. If you breath in smoke or dust or any sort of substance for an amount of time it is going to have an effect on your lungs, be it as small or as large as you would like to admit. Ask anyone who was working in a smoking pub before the ban was in place, who isn't a smoker.

  6. Make the separate places sure, but I've always found them to be very unsociable.

  7. 'There's plenty of evidence that it doesn't represent a significant health risk'. Poppycock. From being an asthmatic I can tell you that it does pose a significant health risk. It's no coincidence that I don't have to use my inhaler at work anymore. Second hand smoke is as much a risk as first hand, lets just take a minute to think about the people that would have to work in these places, be they a hut or a different part of the pub, someone would still have to clean up, in some cases serve drinks, nasty job that, can't imagine anyone wanting to do that. Put simply the smoking ban is the best thing that ever happened to the pub industry. It helped to show up lazily run pubs for what they were, shite and made managers/landlords think about what they were offering their customers. Which in turn gave the customer greater choice.

  8. lets just take a minute to think about the people that would have to work in these places, be they a hut or a different part of the pub, someone would still have to clean up, in some cases serve drinks, nasty job that, can't imagine anyone wanting to do that.

    Have you ever travelled? It's extremely common in Europe. They could even have a bar in the hut! And it's likely that the "different part of the pub" will be busier than the main part of the pub. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is the case - when I'm at airports with smoking rooms to the side, they're often an awful lot busier than the main bar - in fact, they're quite crowded whereas the rest of the pub is totally empty.

    Put simply the smoking ban is the best thing that ever happened to the pub industry.

    Thousands upon thousands of closed pubs and millions of ordinary folk wouldn't agree with you there. Plus, going to pubs is more often than not an unpleasant, judgmental experience - most pubs aren't pubs at all now.

    If you want to sit in an eating house that serves beer, surrounded by couples at tables that never talk to the other customers, where a significant proportion of the customers are socially excluded, with an often ill-educated clientele then fair play to you.

    Do you actually set foot in many pubs now? They are sterile, joyless places full of gloomy landlords and benefit wallahs with serious drink problems for the most part. You can't talk to anyone, because the thumping of the sound system prevents any conversation.

    There are fights and skirmishes outside my father's local every weekend, and we live in a very leafy small town. Where once regular, honourable and decent people would regularly use pubs like this, many of the pubs that remain have been forced into catering for the violent, the feckless, the indolent, the stupid and the lumpens of this world.

    I'm really not surprised most smokers have stayed away from pubs - only one or two of the pubs around here haven't closed yet but that doesn't mean they are pleasant places to visit. They are a vortex of despair and depression. There is no laughter, no joking, no sense of fun and no freedom. It's a solemn, depressing experience visiting them.

  9. Pubs aren't pubs anymore... what are they then? And asked for stating that pubs are now joyless places full of gloomy landlords etc.. do you think this wasn't the case before, or you can now just see the problems because all the smoke has been removed? And asked for all the millions of smokers that are avoiding the non-smoking pubs now, I do wonder where they're all going.

  10. They're all staying at home.

  11. "'There's plenty of evidence that it doesn't represent a significant health risk'. Poppycock."

    So you're a scientist now are you?

    "Put simply the smoking ban is the best thing that ever happened to the pub industry. "

    Ah yes, so 8,000 pubs closed in 4 years and a 25% fall in on-trade beer sales is a great success, is it?

    In reality, of course, it is the worst thing that has ever happened to the pub industry.

    And +1 to Paul - spot on there, mate.

  12. Well if the 8000 or so pubs closed purely on the back of the ban then they really have to ask themselves what they were doing wrong. People should never be going to pubs just to smoke. Although I am kind of sad that I'll now never be able to blow a mouthful of smoke in someones face and then ask them if they're enjoying their pint, not that I smoke mind.

  13. 'People should never be going to pubs just to smoke'.
    Why? Should they only do what you do?
    If I work a 12 hour shift and want a pint and smoke then that WAS my delight and always shared with many friends in cracking pubs.
    Now that's gone. The huge rush of non smokers never happened and it was never going to.
    I depise the Government that bought it in and any Government that keeps it in.

  14. Rabidbarfly: "Second hand smoke is as much a risk as first hand"

    Your reputation as some kind of expert on the subject flew out the window with that sentence. You're either trivialising the real harm caused by actually smoking cigarettes or saying that there is no point to smokers giving up as they would be harmed just as much anyway. This is the problem once ingrained prejudice enters legitimate debate, we end up with utter rubbish being put forward as fact.

  15. "This has been debated elsewhere ad nauseam" - the Pub Curmudgeon, 28th November 2009.

  16. The thing that gets me about all this is the absurd denial from many antismokers that the smoking ban has caused many, indeed any, pub closures.

    It's perfectly possible to argue "yes, it has closed a lot of pubs (although not as many as often claimed) but in general they have been crappy bottom-end pubs and it has led to a leaner, more discerning pub market" – which, in effect, is what Rabidbarfly is saying. But to support the smoking ban and yet at the same time bewail the widespread closure of pubs is an exercise in hypocrisy and self-delusion.

  17. The wholesale closure of pubs began well before the smoking ban, and has continued ever since. Does it really make any sense to attribute pub closures taking place right now to a measure implemented 4 years ago?
    Might not the continued closure of pubs be due to something else - like the sheer bloody cost of a pint in most of them?

  18. There is such a huge weight of anecdotal evidence from both licensees and pub operating companies that the smoking ban has led to a severe downturn in trade, over and above what was already happening, that to deny it has had a significant impact on pub closures is frankly delusional.

    Changes in patterns of trade take time to work their way through the system, and also the pub trade is notorious for the belief that "if we only change x, we can turn it around" so it is entirely credible that the smoking ban is still causing closures even today. Indeed I can think of pubs that are still open, but which it has made unviable in the long term, and will probably close once there is an economic upturn and they are more readily saleable for alternative use.

    And, as I've repeatedly said, the relative economics of on- vs off-trade have not changed dramatically over the past four years.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval. See here for details of my comment policy.