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The pubs that died after giving up smoking…

January 4th, 2010 Posted in UK Politics by

save-our-pubs-and-clubs1You may not be surprised to know that I am a supporter of the excellent SAVE OUR PUBS AND CLUBS CAMPAIGN. If you have not come across the campaign I urge you to visit the site and sign up.

I also urge you to read this article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. Vicki Woods writes about how her local pub died as a result of the smoking ban. It touched a nerve.

When I spent a splendidly frosty News Years Eve down in my home village with family, I learned that my local too had been closed. This was the pub that I sneaked out to at lunch time when I was in sixth form; the pub that had its finger on the pulse of the village; the pub that had survived every previous economic downturn with the slightest of shrugs. Now its gone. I am told that it too closed as a result of the smoking ban. It’s a rural pub – populated mainly by the locals – but since the smoking ban fewer and fewer went there. It used to be heaving – full of farmers and accountant types rubbing shoulders with plumbers and postmen. The last time I went there it was a shadow of its former self with just a  handful of locals inside and a couple of resiliant smokers standing outside in the cold summer drizzle.

According to  52 pubs closed every week in 2009. You can read further information on the effect of the smoking ban here.

For those of you who have not come across it – the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign proposes amendments to the current smoking ban (not an overturn of the current ban) – that seem, in my book at least –  fair to both smokers and non-smokers alike – and include the following proposals….

Adopting the Spanish model – whereby venues with limited floor space can choose to be smoking or non-smoking, but venues larger than 1002 metres can have a designated smoking room if this constitutes less than 30% of total floor space, is fully partitioned and separated from the rest of the venue, and can be wholly avoided by non-smokers. smoking and non-smoking areas.

•    Allowing the smoking of tobacco only in venues that can secure a licence by ensuring an agreed level of ventilation and air quality in both

•    Allowing some discretion for local authorities in determining the nature and extent of smoking regulations.

I for one would like the mission to go further – to say that it should be the landlords decision as to whether one can smoke in any particular hostelry – not my decision, not the Governments, not the Councils.

But the Save Our Pubs and Clubs Campaign strikes me as something that smokers and non-smokers alike can get behind. It’s been running for a while now and gaining widespread support. Go have a look if you can..

18 Responses to “The pubs that died after giving up smoking…”

  1. Frank H Little Says:

    It’s not the smoking ban which is killing off pubs. The trend started long before. It’s a combination of ready availability of alcohol through supermarkets and corner stores, and the attitude of pubcos who are driving out tenants by their pricing policy. The pubcos see more money in redeveloping their estate than in continuing to sell beer.

  2. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Frank – in part you are right of course – it is not only the smoking ban – rather the smoking ban was the final straw. I quote some info from the Save our Pubs and Clubs website though there is more information there if you care to check it out x ….

    ….” AC Nielsen’s study in June 2008 compared on-trade alcohol sales in Scotland (where a smoking ban had been in place since March 2006) with on-trade alcohol sales in England and Wales, where a ban only came into force in July 2007. Nielsen concluded that 80% of the drop in on-trade alcohol sales north of the border was due to the smoking ban.

    Nielsen has since been quoted as hypothesising that half of the decline in beer sales in England and Wales since July 2007 has been caused by the ban. Even ASH seems willing to hypothesise on the basis of these figures.”

  3. nonconformistradical Says:

    “it is not only the smoking ban – rather the smoking ban was the final straw”

    Then why does your posting blame the smoking ban directly?

    There are many reasons why pubs fail. Such as the other reasons which Frank has mentioned – availability of cheap alcohol elsewhere, large pub companies driving tenants out – others I can think of include growth of clubs taking younger potential customers away, change of licensee resulting in change of atmosphere and decline in quality of food etc.

    Personally I love the smoking ban. Smoking is a foul and disgusting habit. I no longer have to put up with it if I want a meal and a drink in a pub. Great.

  4. Julian H Says:

    That the legislation personally benefits yourself, Nonconformistradical, isn’t much of an argument. That’s simply tantamount to Fred Goodwin saying the bailouts were great.

    Furthermore, you always could have a smoke-free meal and a drink in a pub – many pubs chose to include smoke-free eating areas.

    While, in any market, some business will suffer due to changing preferences, this campaign is more about the government interventions that have harmed pubs. As well as the smoking ban, we can consider the significant increases in taxation.

  5. marley Says:

    If the smoking ban was being implemented by publicans and property owners I could live with it
    but it’s not. It is a devisive, bullying piece of draconian legislation backed by lies, junk
    science and well funded fake charities. All of which are damaging the hospitality trade and
    destroying jobs and livelyhoods whilst simultaneously robbing the tax coffers of billions of
    pounds. Well done to the bigots behind it. Smoking is a legal, pleasurable and relaxing pastime,
    particularly with a few pints at the local, and a few softie bigots who ‘can’t stand the smell’ will never convince me otherwise. Smokers are not going away any time soon, so when the publicans want them back (spending) all they have to do is fight the government, amend this ban and get a lot of us back. After all if the ban is not the reason for pub closures, amending the ban won’t change anything will it?

  6. Thomas Laprade Says:

    An alternative to smoking bans

    If the public was honestly and truthfully informed about the effects of second-hand smoke, there would be fewer no-smoking laws in this country.
    A little smoke from a handful of crushed leaves and some paper that is mixed with the air of a decently ventilated venue is going to harm or kill you?

    There has never been a single study showing that exposure to the low levels of smoke found in bars and restaurants with decent modern ventilation and filtration systems kills or harms anyone.

    As to the annoyance of smoking, a compromise between smokers and non-smokers can be reached, through setting a quality standard and the use of modern ventilation technology.

    Air ventilation can easily create a comfortable environment that removes not just passive smoke, but also and especially the potentially serious contaminants that are independent from smoking.

    Thomas Laprade

  7. Dave Atherton Says:


    If you want the perfect emperical evidence go to Ireland. no pubcos, most are owned freehold, and supermarket booze is cheap too.

    Their ban came in 2004 in February and that year GDP growth was +7%. What was the net result at the end of the first year?

    15% of urban pubs closed and 25% of rural pubs. The extra 10% in rural areas can be put down to a drinking and driving crackdown.

    So no excuses here. No pubcos, cheap supermarket booze, no recession, what more evidence to you need?

  8. Jonik Says:

    There are grounds to suspect that part of the goal of smoking bans is indeed to also close down as many bars as possible.

    The giant Robt Wood Johnson Foundation, a prime ban pusher, also heavily funds Mothers Against Drunk Driving…yet ANOTHER group that essentially ignores Corporate Crimes and misdeeds but focuses on individual’s behavior. Note the emphasis on “driving” and “smoking”..both behaviors of individuals.
    RWJF funds nothing remotely like, for instance “Citizens Against Pesticides and Dioxins in Cigarettes”, or “Families Against Corrupted Government Regulators”.

    Sure…everyone’s against cancer, and children being run over by drunks…but both “wars”, on “smoking” and “drinking” coincidentally also focus on products that are in the public domain…they are not patented, and they are not corporate…the corporate use of tobacco and alcohol notwithstanding. There’s no concerted, official “war” on even the most unsafe, under-tested drugs or food additives or chlorine chemicals. Just try to find corporate funding for, say, opposition to use of Depleted Uranium in battle zones.

    Both “wars” also work to weaken basic individual rights, to fracture society, to distract from even the most harmful corporate crimes and products, to paint officials as “caring” and “concerned for health” even though they are often part and parcel of the health-harming industries, and they aim at unorganized and generally powerless individuals.

    As for rights…both “wars” provide excuses for police to stop and check and search people…perhaps especially in cars.

    Both “wars” also drag in private business proprietors (pubs, bowling lanes, restaurants, etc) who had nothing whatever to do with making cigarettes so unnecessarily deadly or, usually, with drinking drivers.

    Both “wars” just happen to involve Big Insurance…which often invests heavily in both cigarette manufacturing (and tobacco pesticides, etc) and in Liquor and Beer producers. Insurers simply hope to evade liabilities and expenses. They can’t blame their own investment properties for the harms…so…they blame the victims. How convenient that both alcohol and tobacco have been deemed “sinful” by many.
    There’s no “sin” in overdosing and misusing Corporate Drugs, however, though that is a huge health problem. But, RWJF IS part of the corporate drug industry so….

    Finally…note that virtually EVERY push to ban smoking adds the same phrase, as if scripted: “…including bars and restaurants.”…two places where people gather to smoke and drink. One never hears “…including corporate board rooms, or auto-repair shops.” …or whatnot.

  9. tim leunig Says:

    Pubs have been closing down for years. There was a recession in 2009 as well. We clearly need figures for each year for (say) the past 15 to get a sense of what might otherwise have happened, the effect of recessions, etc. Maybe more have, maybe fewer.

    Ultimately I don’t think it matters to whether it is a good piece of legislation on not. My instinct is that the growing unacceptability of smoking means that fewer people smoke around children, etc.

    Personally I always found that pubs smelt of smoke, even the non-smoking sections. So I used to try to avoid them – now I don’t.

  10. Mark Littlewood Says:


    I’m really surprised that you say that you “don’t think it matters whether it is a good piece of legislation or not. My instinct is that the growing unacceptability of smoking means that fewer people smoke around children, etc.”

    I’m very concerned that it is a bad piece of legislation. And that the basis for its introduction was dubious science peddled by special interest groups. Even if I believed that the effects of the ban were beneficial (and I don’t), this would trouble me quite considerably.

    The pub closure rates from 1st July 2007 (the date the ban was introduced) are very dramatic. The empirical evidence is pretty conclusive. There is a substantial correlation between the smoking ban and pub closures. The recent ill fortune of the pub industry just doesn’t correlate with e.g. the economic downturn in the same way (or in fact, at all, if my recollection serves – and indeed, previous economic recessions have been weathered quite well by the pub trade). Somewhere or other I have a graph. I will try and find it for you. The best available evidence for comparing like-with-like is Scotland (smoking ban introduced in March 2006) and England (smoking ban introduced July 2007) over this 15 month period. Again, the evidence on the smoking ban causing pub closures is compelling. AC Nielsen concluded that 80% of the drop in on-trade alcohol sales in Scotland in this period was due to the smoking ban.

    There are all sorts of side effects of the ban (e.g. a department of health official said to me the other day that the dry cleaning business had been a serious casualty!!!)

    I’ve no doubt that there are some people in your category – e.g. happier to go down the pub these days and consequently spending more at the bar.

    There are also some in mine. I go to the pub rather less (and very much less in this sort of weather) and also strongly favour establishments with good/easy smoking facilities.

    Rupert Murdoch has also been a beneficiary of the smoking ban on my account. As a direct result of the ban, I have subscribed to the Sky Sports package. I enjoy watching football matches on TV while smoking cigarettes and can only now legally indulge this pleasure from my own living room.

    Even in the absence of any empirical evidence, there is good reason to believe that – from the pub trade’s point of view – the “Littlewood tendency” is more important than the “Leuning tendency”. When left to their own devices, the vast majority of public houses provided for smoking. Very few traded on being “smoke free” or “unsmelly”. This isn’t because pub landlords are idiots. They were rationally chasing profits. Overwhelmingly, they reached the conclusion that there were many more Littlewood dollars than Leuning dollars. It would be very surprising indeed if the catering trade had got this totally wrong and for the House of Commons has got it totally right.

    Of course, if the anti-tobacco lobby are to believed about the effects of second hand smoke, statistics will soon be available showing an enormous reduction in cancer rates, heart disease, asthma attacks etc amongst employees in the catering industry. This, after all, was the central argument for introducing the legislation. If the stats don’t bear this out, this would show that the ban is another piece of government legislation built on a false premise….perhaps the weapons of mass destruction weren’t ever really there in the first place:-)

  11. Thomas Laprade Says:

    As to the annoyance of smoking, a compromise between smokers

    and non-smokers CAN be reached through setting air quality

    standards and the use of modern ventilation technology

  12. Thomas Laprade Says:

    The controversy of second hand smoke could be ended quickly by a simple act of legislation. Anyone presenting information represented as science or health reliant information, which is later found to be false or misleading, would be rewarded with a mandatory ten year jail sentence.

    I can guarantee the bandwagon of smoker hatred would end overnight and the profiteers would be making deals in self preservation convicting each other. Similar to the last time their ilk rose to prominence and Doctors were hanged at Nuremberg. The laws of Autonomy created in the wake, are largely being minimized by the bigots and zealots of Public Healthism, they are laws we found at the expense of millions who died without them. No one has the right to make health choices for others and no one has a right to demand rights to the detriment of others, especially with the convenience of a lie, as we find in the “toxic effect of second hand smoke”.

  13. Jonik Says:

    What about Other Rights?

    No one has the right to put or allow untested, toxic, fire causing and cancer-causing non-tobacco substances into products of mass consumption.

    No one has the right to sell and promote fake tobacco products as if they were tobacco. (Don’t know about UK or other countries’ laws…but in the USA, there are patents galore for making “tobacco” partly or entirely out of industrial waste cellulose…peanut shells, for just one example. No law requires labeling about that, and no law even requires tobacco in a cigarette.)

    Smokers have rights to compensation for harms caused by un-labeled non-tobacco cigarette components…and smokers have rights to compensation for having been experimented upon, without their Informed Consent, with all of the many non-tobacco cigarette constituents.

    Everyone, even smokers, has the Right To Know what is in the products they are using…especially foods, beverages, drugs, smoking products and anything that’s taken internally or can affect health.

    People have a right to proper medical diagnosis of illnesses, which means checking for body-burdens of industrial chemicals…pesticides, dioxins, etc.,…like those delivered so intensely by typical cigarettes. Or ought they be called Pesticide Pegs? Or Dioxin Dowels?

    Smokers and Bar and Pub owners who have been charged with smoke ban violations have right to a hearing where it is assured that judges and jurors have no religious bias against “sinful” tobacco, and have no economic links to parts of the cigarette industry, especially the pesticides, chlorine, additives, insurance, investment etc parts that have the most to lose by exposures and honest adjudication.

    Citizens have the right to expect and demand protection by their sworn and paid officials from any and all industrial harms or threats. If statistics about so-called “smoking related” illnesses and deaths is a clue, then nowhere has this basic right been violated more extensively than in this cigarette area.

    Do we have the right to charge, arrest and prosecute the complicit AWOL officials? They are easy to find. They are the ones with the biggest halos in front of the “smoking ban” crusade.

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  16. Jonik Says:

    And don’t forget that one of the top promoters of smoke bans, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (kin of the chlorine-drenched pharm AND “nicotine replacement” firm Johnson & Johnson), also heavily funds anti-drinking Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

    RWJF also supports privatizing the entire USA health system with private insurers. The For-Profit ones invest BILLIONS, with a “B”, in not just cigarette manufacturers but also the tobacco pesticide suppliers and pretty much the whole chlorine cartel…for starters. (Typical cigs are chlorine contaminated and deliver high doses of dioxin to unwitting, unprotected, uncompensated victims. As if no one ever heard of Agent Orange or Love Canal.)

    So, RWJF is against “smoking” (behavior of individual people) but FOR everyone in the USA putting money into firms that INVEST in the cig industry.
    Stop and ponder that. Play “follow the money” game.

    RWJF has no problem with Big Cig adulteration of typical cigs with more toxic and cancer-causing industrial substances than exist in any other product. RWJF has no problem with the fact that inhalation of those things is the worst possible exposure route. The level of psychopathic cruelty, when you think of it, is astounding.

    Another “game”. Go to RWJF web site. (Just google it.) Use search feature to look up “tobacco pesticides”, “dioxin”, “chlorine”, “pesticide residues”, “fake tobacco”, “radiation tobacco”, “tobacco fertilizers”, “organic tobacco”, “burn accelerants”, etc.
    You will not need pen and paper to record results. There will be virtually nothing to record.
    That RWJF promotes itself as an expert on the topic of “smoking” and “tobacco” is beyond absurdity. Yet they are in the forefront of pushing “no smoking” laws far and wide. Even pub owners, bar owners and their lawyers, oddly, don’t address this angle.

    One bottom line here is that it seems that shutting down pubs and bars is PART and PARCEL of the mission. Why? For the sake of Big Insurance Profits…not spending a cent on any harms caused by Big Insurance investment properties.
    Municipalities, devoid of revenue due to nice tax cuts on the wealthy, also want to avoid health expenses…so they don’t dare address Industrial Health Harms..they go after un-organized, virtually powerless, easily demonized, “sinful” people…those having a smoke and a beer. Swell. Works for them.

  17. Jonik Says:

    By the way, the relatively new USA law giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) power to “regulate tobacco”, FORBIDS the FDA from dealing with Agricultural Matters. The FDA is forbidden by the law to step foot on a tobacco farm or into a drying shed.

    Therefore—none of the residues of some 450 pesticides registered for tobacco use may be acknowledged or considered, and the carcinogenic levels of radiation (PO-210) from certain phosphate fertilizers will also be ignored…as will the combination effects of those non-tobacco elements.

    It’s as if Renaissance era police with duty to investigate the deaths of Medici enemies were compelled to only investigate the wine they drank…but forbidden to look for arsenic.

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