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?