Sunday 19 August 2012

It’s not going away

Last August I ran a poll entitled “The Ultimate Question” asking for people’s views on the issue of smoking in pubs and bars. The results can be seen here.

I’ve now repeated the poll a year later with exactly the same questions, with the results as shown on the right. There was a 43% increase in the total number of respondents, and virtually no change in both the number supporting the option of “let the market sort it out”, and the number supporting some form of liberalisation of the law, which is still 80% of the total. As before, just under 50% believed there was no need for any legislation on the subject.

On the other hand, although the numbers are small, there was an increase in the percentage supporting further restrictions, largely at the expense of those supporting the status quo. Presumably they want to put as many pubs out of business as possible. This would completely remove the figleaf of claiming that pubs still make provision for smokers. This suggests that if anything the debate is becoming more polarised. The table below shows a comparison of the two years’ results.

You may also be interested in this piece from me on the subject printed this month in the local CAMRA magazine Opening Times.


  1. Firstly your sample sizes are way too small to draw any conclusions about change of opinion, assuming no selection bias you've got a confidence interval of around 7%.

    Secondly I find it hard to see anything other than a small correlation between the ban and the state of the pub trade. Of far more importance is the current state of the economy, changing habits for how people use leisure time and general societal attitudes towards social drinking.

    Don't forget only 20% of the population smoke anyway, so assuming only a percentage of those are put off completely from visiting pubs you're still looking at a far smaller cohort than could possibly be responsible for all the pub closures.

  2. I have never suggested that such surveys have any scientific validity - they are merely talking points.

    Nor have I ever claimed that the smoking ban has been the sole cause of the post-2007 decline of pubs. But some of its supporters claim that it has had no impact whatsoever, which is stretching the bounds of credibility.

    And the poll was about whether people thought it was right, not about what its impact had been.

  3. "Don't forget only 20% of the population smoke anyway" - Anon.
    True but smokers were over represented among pub goers, I believe about 54% of pub goers were smokers. Dumping half your cutomers on the street was never going to help pubs and considering pubs already had non-smoking and smoke-free areas it is hard to see how turning them all into smoke-free restaurants was going get millions more customers.

  4. Given your views on the subject and those of your readers, I'm not sure what the point is; other than the obvious one of airing your favourite topic. And, as has been noted before, it has gone away. You just can't accept it.

  5. Or you just can't accept that it has ripped the guts out of the pub trade.

  6. The only significant change in the two polls is that 3-4% of people have shifted their opinion from supporting the current laws to suggesting even more harsh laws against smoking in public places.
    This might stem from non smokers having to share the garden of a pub with all the smokers. but frankly my conclusion from this is that this country is becoming a less tolerant place every day.
    The smoking ban has clearly had a negative impact on many pubs, but I don't think that is should be looked at in isolation as many other factors are also in play here. Beer tax, rising minimum wage, escalating fuel prices, recession are all relevant factors as well.

  7. I actually just meant it's over as a serious debate. Time and general interest has moved on etc. But, I suppose, just as you still get people bringing up capital punishment, it will never be over as far as you are concerned.

  8. Wow, you're being a real fag (pun intended) about the smoking ban; I live somewhere there has been a ban on indoor smoking for 5 years. And the pub trade "suffered" not one jot. People still want to drink, and pubs still sell booze.

    The least agreeable result has been the lack of camouflage for other unpleasant odours, but I'll take that over reeky fags and watering eyes any day. Take it outside Tarboy!


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