Thursday, 24 March 2016

Led astray

One of the reasons sometimes advanced in favour of the blanket smoking ban in pubs is that it’s the only realistic way to protect non-smoking customers. Before the ban, non-smoking drinkers were generally happy to associate with their smoking companions and, excluding dining sections, non-smoking areas in pubs were very much underused. If there was anything short of a total ban, the argument goes, many non-smokers would continue to keep the company of smokers and thus expose themselves to risk.

This comes across as a remarkably spurious line of reasoning. Nobody has to go in pubs, and if you are that concerned about your health, maybe it’s a good idea to avoid them entirely. Even before the ban, a large majority of restaurants and dedicated dining areas in pubs were mostly, if not entirely, non-smoking. So, if you wanted a meal out, you would not have to expose yourself to tobacco smoke. However, if you just wanted to go for a drink, you would probably be in the company of smokers, and therefore end up in an area where smoking was permitted. It’s a classic example of “revealed preference” – the concept that people’s true beliefs should be judged from what they do, not what they say. Clearly most people put their friends and their social life above some nebulous and unproven health risk.

And, taken to the extreme, this argument precludes any provision whatsoever of “collective” indoor smoking provision. It would not even allow dedicated smoking clubs that might also sell alcohol, because some non-smokers might use them. Surely any adult non-smoker can consider the evidence relating to the risk of “passive smoking” and make their own decision about the risk, or lack of. And, considering the effect the smoking ban has had, many of the smokers you used to socialise with may have abandoned the pub anyway. It’s ultimately an argument that is highly dismissive of individual responsibility and free choice. It suggests adults are weak and gullible, and need to be protected from themselves.

It’s about on a par with the ridiculous assertion that smokers are to blame for pub closures because they chose to boycott them. If you had to stand out in the cold and wet to drink a pint, would you go to the pub as much?

17 comments:

  1. I know only one drinker who stopped pub-going after the ban.

    None of the above addresses this scenario: you want to drink your preferred cask real ale and meet your friends in a public house that they frequent and which you like, but the smoke affects your sinuses and/or contact lenses (sinus trouble is an endemic problem in Merseyside).

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    1. So if you don't like something, nobody should be allowed to do it anywhere, even in places where you're never likely to go?

      And there are plenty of examples of people being unable to do things for medical reasons, but that doesn't mean nobody else should be able to do them either. We don't ban gardens because many people suffer from hay fever.

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    2. Maybe a compromise that would have kept you happy would have been to only allow smoking in keg pubs. Then you would have never had to visit them. I can't think of any drawbacks with that ;-)

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    3. You must have a remarkably small circle of acquaintances.

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    4. The Blocked Dwarf25 March 2016 at 12:10

      RedNev, let me assure you that I stopped going into Pubs/Cafes/Restaurants etc the day of the smoking ban. Since 2007 I have been in a pub handful of times tops for things like weddings and to drink coffee and meet people I couldn't meet elsewhere, although last time I simply drove the half hour to their home instead of giving any money to the 'local'. Yep I'd rather support Big Derv than Big Brewski...and my thoughts on pongers mirrror Cooky's. I cheer inwardly everytime I see a boarded up pub.

      "Dad, will you still come to our wedding breakfast if we hold it in the Village Hall not at our home?" (of course I did...and stood with the crowd of smokers and the groom, my son, outside at regular intervals for a smoke).

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  2. I smoke and I hate the smoking ban but it hasn't stopped me going to the pub. Why? Because I didn't go to the pub to smoke, I can do that at home. I go to the pub to drink beer, meet friends, read papers, catch up on the local gossip etc.
    I used to work with a bloke who never went to the pub because they were "too smoky". When the ban came in, we used to ask him out for a drink and he would find another excuse. The truth was, he just didn't like pubs. (He had a weak bladder as well). He was the sort of person who, when questioned before the ban whether it would make him more likely to visit a pub would have answered "Yes" which actually meant that his odds of going shortened from 100/1 to 99/1 against.

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  3. I don't like pubs but love Tesco Express. Smoking ban is great. Less pubs, more shops. Win win.

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  4. You don't have to stand outside to drink a pint (even if you're "a smoker"). That's only for when you're smoking.

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    1. Point spectacularly missed there (probably deliberately).

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    2. To be honest, I'm not sure what your point was. Unless it was to say that pubs should be for smokers and the fusspots who don't like breathing in others smoke should stay at home. Which, given only 1 in 5 of us smoke, seems like a recipe for disaster for the pub trade.

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  5. Among those that think beer is a cause, campaign or movement or some such bollocks, a feature rarely recognized (though some of us like to bang on about it ;) ) is how middle class it all is. There is no campaign to save pubs regardless of how much CAMRA may appear to have morphed into a campaign for that. It is not and will never be and could never become one due to it's own internal code of beery virtue and sin.

    It is all about the right kind of pubs, not pubs in general.

    Most pubs, beer enthusiasts, CAMRA members et al, would not be seen dead in. They don't like them and don't care if they close.

    A small set of gentrified and codified pubs are cared about. These are frequented, awarded etc and held up as model pubs despite the fact that most people don't want beers they have never heard of and some people like Sky sports etc.

    CAMRA types like the smoking ban because it meant less of the types of pubs they despised and maybe one or two more of the types of pubs they liked. Who cares about the total number of pubs or pubs for people that don't drink according to the codified set of rules for beer appreciation?

    A world were every pub is a middle class palace of pong? Christ on a bike.

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  6. There's a pub by ours that has a sign up informing us that "vaping" is permitted indoors but only if it's the right kind of vaping (i.e. the sort that doesn't produce extreme volumes of "smoke" - all you enthusiasts w/ your VG rich liquids please note). Relevant? Probably not, but it made me laugh.

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  7. Another pro-ban argument I seem to remember being put forward is that a ban would help smokers quit. This is nonsense too; people don't smoke because they are allowed to do it in pubs, they smoke anyway. Also a great deal was made of the fact a ban protects staff. This could be solved by stricter regs on ventilation and restricting the areas where you can smoke i.e. not in the bar.

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    1. I'd say if anything the ban has made people less likely to quit as it forces them to define themselves as "smokers" in a way they never had to before.

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  8. Deftly ignoring the point, Curmudgeon, is intellectually dishonest.

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    1. In what way am I being intellectually dishonest?

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  9. Sorry, Nev, but I blame you for setting him off again.

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