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Scotland: time to rethink smoking ban

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland. Forest has issued the following press release:


The smokers’ lobby group Forest has called for amendments to the smoking ban that would bring Scotland into line with most European countries.

The group wants pubs and clubs in Scotland to have the option of providing separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms. It also wants the regulations on outdoor smoking shelters to be relaxed so that smokers can light up outside in greater comfort all year round.

Speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland, which was introduced on 26 March 2006, Simon Clark, director of Forest, said:

“Other European countries have found a sensible compromise ranging from licensed smoking premises to exemptions for small or drink-only bars. Why not Scotland?

“At the very least the regulations on outdoor smoking shelters should be relaxed so people can smoke outside in a warm and comfortable environment all year round.”

Clark blamed the smoking ban for accelerating pub closures in Scotland and called on politicians to act:

“Research demonstrates that the smoking ban is the main cause of pub closures in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Total pub losses in England, Scotland and Wales since the introduction of smoking bans in all three countries are in excess of 5,500. Scotland alone has lost over 700 pubs since the introduction of the ban in March 2006.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. Pubs and clubs are the heart of many rural and urban communities and their loss is having a serious impact on jobs and many people’s social lives. From the feedback we receive, the ban continues to provoke a great deal of anger and anguish.

“We accept that many people do not want to be exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke, so what we are asking for is an amendment to the ban that would allow separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs.

“The majority of licensed premises would probably remain non-smoking but there would be a degree of choice for those who want to smoke and drink indoors in a warm and sociable environment.

“At present smokers have no choice other than to stand outside, whatever the weather, or stay at home. An increasing number are choosing to stay at home and who can blame them if there is nowhere for them to smoke and drink in comfort?”

Clark added: “For the sake of our local communities, the Scottish Government must review the impact of the smoking ban and consider amendments to this unnecessarily harsh piece of legislation.”

Click here to download a pdf of the news release.

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  • Response
    On the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland, I see one of the "worst junk stats of 2007" is being rolled out yet again.

Reader Comments (50)

I can't put into words how much it angers me how much Media influence the likes of ASH have, where, if it wasn't for the money taken from my pocket by threat of imprisonment, they wouldn't have enough cash or support to even exist.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 9:40 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

I note the BBC report begins with the word 'Experts'.
It's about time this word was qualified to explain they are not 'experts' in tobacco but 'experts' in tobacco CONTROL.
They support bias. So many so-called 'experts' work in university departments where they are funded to promote this bias and their students/associates are committed to emulate this bias to ensure the award of their degree of compliance.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterXopher

Why only in Scotland? Do you have some research that a majority of Scots want such a change, or that more Scots than English / Welsh want it?

Since the theory is that the smoking ban is all the fault of the leftie do-gooding nanny-state supporting brigade, is it not a little surprising that there is not more clamour for reversion from the predominately right-wing press?

Much as I love pubs, you do have a narrow rose-tinted 1950's rural England view of them. An alternative view is that alcohol is a major source of violence and anti-social behaviour (particullrly in parts of Scotland), and that for hundreds of years pubs took money from working-class families they could ill afford to spend (see Angela's Ashes). And of course, neither simplistic picture is an adequate explantion of the function of pubs in our society.

Sure some people have stopped going to pubs because they can't smoke, and they haven't been much replaced by people who didn't use to go. But for a certain category of people there is an ingrained prejudice that the pub is not a good experience, and that is partly because of the previous smoky atmosphere.

The principal reason for the closure of pubs is the unrealistic rents charged and the lack of freedom of publicans to choose what they sell. That problem has escalated year on year through the greed of 'property entrepreneurs' like Robert Tchenguiz, but can easily be traced back to the ludicrous 'freeing of the market' by the Thatcher government in 1988 which forced brewers to seel the pubs over their tenants' heads to new pub companies who immediately set about increasing rents and exploiting the chance to buy beer in bulk cheaply from the brewers and sell high to the unfortunate tied publican.Look more closely (and honestly) and you will find the problem with pubs closing stems less from the smoking ban, and much more from the application of the very politics you espouse.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 10:56 | Unregistered CommenterSimon (nsc)

Oh Simon (nsc) you are an uneducated idiot aren't you!

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 11:06 | Unregistered CommenterArthur Smith

@Arthur Smith: "uneducated idiot", in this context, means "someone who disagrees with me", I presume?

Can you spell "Ad Hominem"?

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 11:33 | Unregistered CommenterPeter MacFarlane

I listened to the Radio Scotland phone-in this morning. It was pretty well balanced and Lynn did well. The most noticable aspect was that the folk calling for tolerance and equality, smokers and non-smokers, came across as well balanced and reasonable while the antis came across as frothing lunatics. I don't think I've ever seen that distinction so succinctly before.

Worth a listen on the station's 'listen again'.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 11:54 | Unregistered CommenterMalenfant

Refusing to accommodate people that smoke inside pubs is ruining the social lives of millions during winter . I know of many people that don't go out at all now. something desperately needs to be done.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 12:21 | Unregistered CommenterMark

In the BBC report, someone called Sally Haw claims a 17% fall in heart attacks among bar workers. How is possible to collect such a statistic? If it is true, it won't be due to the Ban. That would be physiologically impossible. Does anyone know the source of this claim?

Simon (nsc), it is not relevant whether there is a majority in support of a relaxation of the smong ban. It is not something which should be decided by a vote. Would it be reasonable for the people in your street to vote on what colour you should paint your living room? if just two people out of millions wanted to get together on private property to smoke, it is nobody elses business. The European Court would take a pretty dim view if homosexuality were once again criminalised following a public vote.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 12:48 | Unregistered CommenterJon

I see Simon (NSC) has Marxist Self Consciousness down to a fine art.

I think the difference between the pro choice movement and ASH is stark. ASH's website allows no room for a debate or dissent, while here one is encouraged to have a civilised and frank discussion. ASH also run a Facebook page and have banned and censored me the minute I made, I hope intelligent criticisms, backed up with empirical evidence. It seems the last thing that ASH want is an evidenced based exchange of ideas, sticking with suppression.

Martin Dockrell of ASH has smeared me as a "far right..(from a far right) organisation" no doubt in the same league as the BNP and the EDL. As a classical liberal this is desperate stuff.

Considering this is a charity they should hang their head in shame.

"Should Liberal Democrats trust Atherton’s far right organisation “Freedom2Choose”

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 12:57 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Is Freedom to Choose aware of this? They would be able to sue Dockrell for libel, as can you Dave. It might be worth an email to the Charity Commission, although nowhere in his comment does he mention he is ASH UK's spokesman.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 13:12 | Unregistered CommenterJon


He does admit to it.

"Just to be clear, I am from Action on Smoking and Health. Also to be clear, Dave Atherton is from the right wing blog Progressive Conservative.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 13:18 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

From the BBC report : "Ms Haw said there had been no evidence people were smoking more at home because they could not do so in enclosed public places."

Well, unless they're spying on us in our own homes, how could they possibly know? Her idea of "evidence" and mine are rather different.

The pomposity & condescension of these people needs to be challenged and you, Simon, are the person to do it. We should attack by taking the mickey - lacking as they are in a sense of humour they would have no idea what was going on.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 13:18 | Unregistered Commenterhklovejoy

Whilst this is an open site, we do like to have decent points being made. Anybody who wilfully ignores the sharp spikes in any graph you care to look at relating to Pub closures since the ban, whether in Scotland or England and Wales, is simply not worth debating with. It's like trying to discuss with somebody who insists that Pub trade has increased since the ban. Impossible.

I've never seen a plainer case of 'bullshit baffling brains' than all to do with anti smoking.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 13:29 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

“At the very least the regulations on outdoor smoking shelters should be relaxed so people can smoke outside in a warm and comfortable environment all year round.”

Sorry to keep banging on about this (I made the same point last week), but this appears defeatist and it would not get me back "in" to pubs. I accept that in other interviews you demanded smoking rooms.
However many patio heaters it uses, an outdoor shelter is still outdoors and can never be warm and comfortable. Otheewise house builders could save a lot of money on walls. Why don't you just relentlessly repeat the idea that, as in the Netherlands, the smoking ban will inevitably be amended to allow, at the very least, private smoking clubs?

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 14:05 | Unregistered CommenterJon

Simon (nsc), the Forest press release took a Scottish angle and was issued exclusively to the Scottish media (and the hospitality press) because the peg was the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland (keep up, man!). We would take the same position for any part of the UK.

Re pub closures, pubs have certainly been in decline for a long time. Last year however we commissioned a report, based on hospitality industry data, that demonstrated that pub closures in Ireland, Scotland and England accelerated dramatically following the introduction of smoking bans in those three countries.

Crucially, the acceleration didn't occur at the same time but, as Frank says, from 2004 (Ireland), 2006 (Scotland) and 2007 (England), ie the years when smoking bans were introduced in those three countries. Coincidence? I think not.

Full report here.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 14:06 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I thought it was Hegel that developed the philosophy of self-consciousness, and that Marx was very critical of the idea. But there you go, what would I know, being an uneducated idiot?

If ASH are stifling debate then they are very very silly. But, while Simon clearly accepts neigh-sayers it isn't evident that contrary argument is accepted by his readers who regularly abuse in offensive terminology anyone who has a different view to their own. But then, as I have been told here before, if I don't like it I should' just shut the fuck up'.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 14:09 | Unregistered CommenterSimon (nsc)

Thanks Simon :-).

Er..2004-2007. That would be the time when the banks became more and more reckless about lending, and Tchenguiz and his friends started the idea of securitising 100%+ loans against future inflated rental receipts? Have a look into what happened at the Globe Pub Company and see if you can see any correlation.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 14:14 | Unregistered CommenterSimon (nsc)

The smoking ban is about governments refusal to accommodate smokers within public buildings. It is ruining the social lives of millions in winter who go out less and many elderly who now don't go out at all. A change to this legislation for the sake of peoples social lives is desperately needed. We should follow Germany where most pubs provide smoking rooms.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 14:34 | Unregistered CommenterMark

"A change to this legislation for the sake of peoples social lives is desperately needed"


[Article 8] creates an obligation to provide universal protection by ensuring that all indoor public places, all indoor workplaces, all public transport and possibly other (outdoor or quasi-outdoor) public places are free from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

No exemptions are justified on the basis of health or law arguments.

If exemptions must be considered on the basis of other arguments, these should be minimal. In addition, if a Party is unable to achieve universal coverage immediately,

Article 8 creates a continuing obligation to move as quickly as possible to remove any exemptions and make the protection universal."

As I think FCTC may be legally binding, our present government's hands were tied by the previous one.

Perhaps the present government would have the decency to make a public announcement about the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and explain to us just what we are in for.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 15:46 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Rose2: I see this was committed to in absolute secrecy by the previous govt. and is typical of them and their attitudes but how is this legally binding? What enforcement procedures would an 'International treaty' include? It seems like 'international Law' i.e. an unenforceable agreement that lives only as long as the signatories agree to act on it.

The Govt. may choose to act on it or not as the situation warrants so the responsibility still lies with the HoC.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 16:53 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

"how is this legally binding? "


I have no idea,
however Medical News Today seems to think that Article 14 is legally binding for some reason, so it's possible that they all are.

Governments Need To Improve Smoking Cessation Services, Smokers Say, UK

"Services and support are key to helping smokers quit and to helping governments who have signed up to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meet their commitments to drive tobacco use down."

"In an effort to reduce tobacco use, the EU and its Member States have signed up to the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The FCTC's Article 14, through its recently adopted guidelines, demands action to promote cessation of tobacco use and provide adequate treatment for tobacco dependence."

Countries who have signed up to the FCTC therefore have a legal obligation to implement the recommendations of Article 14."

Guidelines Article 14

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 17:56 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

I suspect Simon nsc is trying to wind people up by claiming the pub closures are not due to the ban. On St. Pat's day, Tony Livesey on R5L, interviewed the landlord of the Lass O'Gowrie in Manchester - a pub near the BBC and the University- so fairly middle class. Talking about business, this man said that before the ban, keeping the place clean was sufficient and business was booming, and that there was a sudden and drastic change when the ban came in. He predicted that the pub industry would never recover. He was not in the pay of big tobacco - just an ordinary guy explaining his business.

Friday, March 25, 2011 at 18:11 | Unregistered CommenterJon

Legally binding? are we now in territory that enables world bodies to say this is how it will be regardless of other government priorities and the democratic mandate is irrelevant? Who will enforce it ... no one, nothing worse can happen than being denounced by the Framework Alliance as a foot dragger. Like this fella does, getting a boot stuck into the NL simply because they have defied the party line.

The government should indeed come clean and say it is committed to whatever provisions FCTC have thought fit to impose on the world, regardless of the feelings of the electorate. Since the FCTC effectively disables our government from taking any meaningful decisions in this area, we should get right out of it. But perhaps government don't want to admit that they are taking the lead from a world body in this case.

The world will revolve around tobacco control, but only if we let it. They're doing it by pester power, in a bloodless coup.

Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 11:15 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

link from above

Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 11:16 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

The first mention of whether we had signed the FCTC I found was on a Grand Prix website.

Britain ratifies anti-tobacco treaty
"The announcement was hidden away in a statement about a reduction in the number of smokers in the UK."

But I can only find three articles

Medical News Today

More than a million fewer smokers since 1998, UK - 17 Dec 2004
"On the same day as these statistics were published, the UK ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

This is the first international treaty on public health and has the potential to make a real difference in tobacco control at a global level by committing all parties to the following measures:

One on the NHS National Electronic Library for Medicines

And one on a government website that shows up on google but access is forbidden.

Hardly a public announcement to the millions of people it would affect,but there might be others with different wording.

Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 11:21 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

The whole point about this FCTC is that the final decision lies with National Govts. and not the WHO. It is unenforceable. This 'legally binding' thing is just another massive exaggeration, something we're used to from the antis. Our point of assault is our own Govt. and nobody else. There may be practical 'carrots and sticks' attached to complying with it - e.g. Pharma upping the price of other drugs if we dismember their NRT market - but obviously not sufficient to make the Govt. come clean about it.

The problems still remain the same, FCTC or not. SHS and the all Party Committee of the HoC.

Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 12:00 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

I really do not understand where Simon (nsc) is coming from. It is all very confusing. Is he saying that all pubs should be closed and all alcohol should be banned because some people go out of control when the drink? I quote: ""An alternative view is that alcohol is a major source of violence and anti-social behaviour (particullrly in parts of Scotland), and that for hundreds of years pubs took money from working-class families they could ill afford to spend (see Angela's Ashes)"". How else can that quote be interpreted other that 'pubs should be closed for the punters' own good'.

But then Simon (nsc) goes on to say that pubs are actually 'a good thing' and that the closures are due to high rents. He also blames the fall in property values for the closures as well. Well, no, Simon (nsc). The problem for the Punch Group is that (em>they cannot service their debts(/em>. This fact is disguised by much mumbo-jumbo, but that is the reality. The fact is that they are losing business hand over fist. And, this loss of business preceded the economic woes. Also, Simon (nsc), can you please re-think your statement: ""But for a certain category of people there is an ingrained prejudice that the pub is not a good experience, and that is partly because of the previous smoky atmosphere"". You have no evidence whatsoever for that statement. None of any substance - that is, there may be a few people who have held that view, but not in sufficient numbers or with sufficient harm related arguments to be relevant. Surveys do not count as evidence. They are merely perceptions.

You need also to re-think your statement: ""And of course, neither simplistic picture is an adequate explantion of the function of pubs in our society"". The fact is that is not for you to decide 'the function of pubs in our society' - it is for pub goers to decide that - each individual person. Your idea is precisely what is wrong with the ban and all the other 'denormalisation' programs in that individual people become just numbers as far as you are concerned.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 3:00 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Dear me Junican, did I really make it that difficult to understand? I was saying Simon has used a simplistic 'heart of the community' view of pubs,and others would use a simplistic 'source of all evil' view. Neither is valid as pubs play different and complex roles in our society. Not for me to decide what their function is, no, and I didn't claim it was, quite the opposite.

Punch got heavily in debt partly because they went for massive expansion by buying up Spirit and other pub groups that were already failing - Spirit was going under because they paid £2.5bn for S&N Retail. The securitisation of rents model was always doomed to failure because it envisaged being able to hike publicans' rents by percentages over inflation year-on year. My knowledge of these things is 'inside' as I've said here before.

As for the lost generation, no I don't have direct evidence apart from my in-laws and their friends. All I said was (acknowledging the effect of the smoking ban) is that they haven't been replaced by non-smokers of that generation because they've never been to pubs before and don't want to start now.

Times move on, working mens' clubs and miners' welfare clubs closed because of the loss of the industries and the simple fact that people are much more mobile in work (if they have any). It was the mine or the factory that was the heart of the community, not the club associated with it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 9:20 | Unregistered CommenterSimon (nsc)

Simon (nsc): Let's cut the bull. Are you saying that pub trade has increased, decreased or stayed the same since the smoking ban in these Islands.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Most people reading this blog are likely to have experienced first hand, the devastation that the smoking ban has caused to peoples social lives and businesses. The ban continues to be the main cause of pub closures across the UK, despite there being many other contributory factors; anyone trying to argue otherwise here, is clearly wasting their time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 15:33 | Unregistered CommenterMark

What bull? Obviously there has been a decline in the number of pubs since the smoking ban, I never claimed there hasn't. I'm saying it isn't the only cause of closure - just as you all claim it isn't the only contributory factor in the decline of heart disease (and, to be clear, I agree with you there).

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 16:28 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

we can argue till the cows come home about whether it was the only reason for their closure. I do know publicans who saw their income drop sharply in the months following the ban, and no amount of rabbiting about supermarket prices would convince them that they had hallucinated about the sudden drop in their takings. Surely the policy decision is whether lifting the ban would allow bars to revitalize, and I can't fail to see how it would to some extent although now more smokers are now used to supermarket prices for drink.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 16:37 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

@Simon (NSC)

Here is the spreadsheet from the British Beer and Pub Association which accounts for 95% of the pub trade and does not account for the Working Mens CIU club closures. It covers pub closures from 1980 to 2010.

Please explain, even taking into previous recessions such as 1989-91 and 2001-3 overall closures work out at 0.6504% 1980 to 2006 but post 2007 it is 2.775%.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 16:39 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Simon (nsc): Do you consider that Pubs closing because of the effect of the ban - in varying degrees in each case, admittedly, but none the less an instrumental fact in closure - should be of concern?

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 17:06 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Frank - yes I do see that as a matter for concern, but partly because it suggests that there is a set of people who are so enthralled to their habit that they would rather sit lonely smoking in their house than socialise with their friends without a chance to smoke.

Is there anyone here who has actually stopped going to pubs because they can't smoke inside? And if so, why? I completely understand that the smoking,drinking, chatting etc. is seen as a whole package, but surely the human interaction is (should be) the one element in there that is paramount?

Dave - in 2005 the company I work for started to employ a team of people whose job was to look into alternative uses for pubs and pub sites. To start with we were looking for 'golden bricks' - city centre pubs which were occupying sites ripe for office development. And then we looked at rural pubs which could be converted into flats (a story now running on The Archers as it happens). I doubt we were the only pub company doing that. The reasoning was simple - better to realise a distributable significant profit and reduce our balance sheet than to continue a low economic profit from beer sales.

Belinda - you are probably right, there would be a small increase in takings. But given the way rents for pubs are structured by the pub property owning companies it would do little to make the businesses more viable. The only point I have been trying to make here is that there is a lot more than the smoking ban contributing to the closure of pubs, and from where I sit the principal cause over the last seven years or so has been the practice of securitisation of rents. It is a harsh market-led reality that these landlords don't care whether the asset they own operates as a pub or not. In most cases they can make more profit from tearing it down and putting up flats. A cynic would say that there is even a deliberate policy in some cases to charge rents that drive the tenant out so that they can 'legitimately' apply to planning authorities for change of use. If you really want to save pubs lobby this government about their decision to make the planning process even easier for people like the Tchenguizs (major Conservative donors of course)

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 0:14 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

Simon NSC said "The only point I have been trying to make here is that there is a lot more than the smoking ban contributing to the closure of pubs."

You don't appear to acknowledge Simon NSC, that the smoking ban is the main cause of pub closures across the UK or acknowledge that it is ruining businesses and social lives.
Millions are going out less and many elderly people have stopped going out to socialise completely. These are real problems that have come about as a direct result of the smoking ban that you are not making any attempt to understand.

Would you support an amendment to the smoking ban? I suspect the opposite to be true in fact.
Refusing to accommodate smokers inside pubs leaving people little choice but to stand outside like lepers in the bad weather or to stay at home. This legislation is not necessary, its clearly an unacceptable way of treating people and it is also bad for business.
The ban should be amended to provide a choice of areas so everyone is made comfortable inside pubs, not just non smokers. Most pubs in Germany provide smoking rooms, it is possible to do this without exposing bar staff and non smokers to shs. This disproportionate legislation needs to be amended across the UK not just in Scotland.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 1:46 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Simon (nsc), I don't see why one kind of amendment should rule out another. I am sure you are right that landlords of pubs see their property as an investment that they want the best return on. The licensees want better terms and also many of them would prefer to be able to treat their customers with a little dignity. I don't see why they shouldn't campaign for both (those who are not too exhausted to campaign for either).

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 1:57 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

Simon (nsc): You, really, have no idea whatsoever, do you?

"Is there anyone here who has actually stopped going to pubs because they can't smoke inside? And if so, why?"

Yes!, me, us and a lot more like us. Certainly during winter and a lot less so in summer due to the clinical and sparse environment that now exists in them. I also have sufficient pride not to visit places that now treat me as undesirable. Only the last 4 years, of course, for the previous 45 I was positively encouraged.

"I completely understand that the smoking,drinking, chatting etc. is seen as a whole package, but surely the human interaction is (should be) the one element in there that is paramount?"

Personal choice, pure and simple, it's what has always made us comfortable and we've no intention of changing lifelong habits at the behest of some trendy, left Govt. for extremely fatuous, fragile reasons which on analysis, we see little basis for. Nor will we be dictated to over our lifestyle choices. It doesn't help when your friends and acquaintances no longer visit, either That you can't understand it is irrelevant and of no concern.

You have no idea of any of this and as already said, anybody who wilfully ignores the sharp spikes in pub closures from the time of the ban, preferring to blame green cheese light or fairies at the bottom of the garden, anything but the ban, is not worth debating with.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 9:26 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Frank, you're right. I have no idea. Without any hint of mocking and completely sincerely I am very sorry. If you have got to a place where you can't go out and socialise and your friends and acquaintances don't visit, then that is absolutely awful.

Interesting article in yesterday's Observer someone has brought to my attention, concerning the failure of Punch. Of course the Punch representative lays all the blame on the smoking ban but the article backs up exactly what I have been saying over the last few days:

"Greg Mulholland, the LibDem MP who chairs parliament's all-party 'Save the Pub' group says: 'The big so-called pub companies are really property companies, and very largely property speculators. Some are playing monopoly with pubs that mean an awful lot to communities they serve'..Mulholland argues that Punch and its fellow megaliths are follies born on the drawing board of City dealmakers during an era of reckless exuberance prior to the financial crisis."

"'The model doesn't work' says Steve Corbett, founder of the Fair Pint Campaign. 'It's financial engineering in the extreme, whereby they've managed to extract the maximum profit to the detriment of tenants and consumers'"

(I expect these guys are uneducated idiots too)

So while Punch MD says 'it wasn't my fault - it's all because of the smoking ban' city analysts and shareholders, who voted down executive remuneration blame the property policy. Giles Thorley - about whom you can read more here: quit. Incidentally (just because I like to mention these things) founder Hugh Osmond gave £80,000 to the Conservative Party.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 11:14 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

I thank you for your comments, Simon(nsc), but for the avoidance of doubt, I'm not saying that we don't socialise, we don't do it in pubs, these days, for the reasons I've given. We have not been replaced.

It would appear that the drop in trade has not helped the figures. The question is if it was foreseen and projected. If not, then hoist on their own petard for believing the bull of 'increased trade' given out by the antis.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 13:02 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

I agree, Frank. Those responsible for such ludicrous projections should have been accountable and lost their jobs. But they picked up big bonuses for pushing the deals through and moved on, leaving the public to pick up the consequences. Plus ca change...

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 13:17 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

@Simon (NSC)

This will keep you out of mischief for a while, my full article on pub closures. Please find fault with the content.

"David Milliband was recently injudicious enough to posture as the champion of the Great British pub saying he can save it by confronting Pub Companies (Pubcos) over the beer tie. The beer tie is the inflated price that a tenant pays for a barrel of beer. A freeholder might pay £60-£80 for 88 pints of beer while under the beer tie they may pay £130-£140.

However it did not take long to rouse the smokers into action to point out the biggest cause of pub closures is the smoking ban. Also cheap supermarket drink is heavily cited as being a reason for them too. However one of Milliband’s supporters was kind enough to post an article from the Guardian listing all the pub closures from 1980 to 2010 as supplied by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). The number crunching is interesting, especially as the BBPA list closures under each Conservative and Labour administration. The first thing you notice is that under Labour pub closures accelerated by 34%. Yes, over a third more pubs closed per year than under the Conservatives. What is more it revealed is the real reason for the recent decimation of pubs and is probably responsible for 75%, yes 3 in 4 closures. The smoking ban.

Pubs have been on a gentle decline since their peak in 1975 when, but if you take the years pre ban 1980 to 2006 the average per centum loss per year was 0.6504%, while from 2007 onwards since the smoking ban the average is 2.775%.

So hence for 2007 there were 56,791 pubs in the UK so one would expect: 56,791 x 0.6504% = 369.37 pubs to close. The actual figure is 1,409. So there is an excess of 1039.63 pubs closing. 369.37/1,409 x 100 = 26.22%. 100% - 26.22 = 73.78% of pub closures can be put down to the smoking ban. The following figures on the same formula for the remaining three years are:

2008 - 81.93%
2009 - 74.28%
2010 - 76.93%

With smokers and their non smoking friends either staying at home, visiting less and/or staying for less time it has brought the beer tie into focus. My research says there was some, but not too much dissent pre ban from pubco tenants about the beer tie. However with reduced turnover from the smoking ban brings into focus fixed costs like rent and council taxes remaining constant and the highly inflated cost of beer puts many at a significant disadvantage. Quite rightly Parliament is reviewing the current situation.

The other major reason cited is cheap supermarket drink. My research has suggested that supermarket drink pre ban was just as cheap then as it is now. The first quote is from the Business Section of The Guardian from July 2004. “But supermarkets sold alcohol at a fraction of the price it was on sale for in pubs, he said. Some were selling brand name cider for 51p a can and export strength lager for 64p during the Euro 2004 football championships."

In a letter dated 28th March 2007 Ian R Loe the Research Manager of CAMRA to the Competition Commission states:

"Research by CAMRA in the period just before Christmas, sound that supermarkets were selling Fosters and Carling for the equivalent of 54p a pint...a pint of beer in a pub 148p to 213p from 1995 to 2005...the cost of supermarket lager ..the average price is down from 70.8p to 67.4p.." Let me remind you this is 4 months before the smoking ban.

The most obvious evidence of this is from This Is Money where on the 21st September 2006 the prices in Tesco were listed for Fosters lager, Red Smirnoff Red Label Vodka and Jack Daniels. The 2010 prices were taken on the 12th August from

Beer and spirits 2006 2010
4x 500 ml Fosters £3.53 £3.42*
Red Smirnoff Vodka 70cl £9.79 £11.00
Jack Daniels 70cl £18.18 £20.49
Wine 2004 2010
Wolf Blass Yellow Label £5.72 £6.74**
Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay £5.69 £5.24***
Jacobs Creek Shiraz Cabernet 75cl £4.73 per bottle 5.24****

* (Adjusted from 440ml)
** (special offer reduced from £8.99)
*** (special offer reduced from £6.99)
**** (special offer reduced from £6.99)

I hope this ends the urban myth that supermarket booze all of a sudden became cheap after the smoking ban.

So in conclusion what needs to be done is to allow pubs and clubs separate ventilated smoking rooms in pubs at Parliament’s earliest opportunity, the ongoing review of the beer tie and frankly as someone who does not like government nannying and is a free market proponent, pubs to come up with a more competitive product. Failing that we will follow Ireland where 25% of pubs have closed and another 33% probably closing since their ban in 2004. Yes, Britain at some time in the not too distant future may lose half of their pubs.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 13:43 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Thanks Dave, jolly well done. And I expect the Conservatives will listen to you and make it all right, won't they? Or maybe not.

I read everything you wrote very carefully. I can't see where you have dealt with the points I was making about the wreckless funding models, which precisely coincide with the smoking ban. All you say is :'My research says there was some, but not too much dissent pre ban from pubco tenants about the beer tie.' Come on let's have that research, I assume it consists of more than 'I talked to one or two of my publican friends'?.

The truth is that pub tenants have been voting with their feet ever since the days of Grand Met/Courage setting up Inntrepreneur after the stupid MMC report in 1988/89. Unfortunately (for them) there have always been sufficient mugs willing to come along and fool themselves they can make a go of a pub business. But since 2005 return-on-asset pub companies have been working on the 'alternative use' model and even the duped would-be publicans don't get a chance.

Sorry, but all you have done is make some statistics fit your premise. You have wilfully ignored all alternative potential explanations. No doubt you will say I am doing the same, but I have accepted that the ban had an effect; I'm just encouraging you to accept that there are other major considerations at play here. . Instead of mocking Millidum, you could have seen that there is merit in dealing with the pubcos. Even though the fraud squad are looking at some of them, Cameron won't do it - he's had too much money from these people

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 14:44 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

@Simon (NSC)

You said: 'My research says there was some, but not too much dissent pre ban from pubco tenants about the beer tie.' Come on let's have that research, I assume it consists of more than '

After a conversation with Inez Ward of JFL 4 months ago, I am happy to admit I am wrong, there was plenty of dissent pre ban. I also understand from Inez that tenanted pubs also suffer from "churn" where one bankrupted tenant is replaced by another clutching their cash.

However I still stand by every other word that I wrote, that CAMRA were complaining about the price of supermarket pre ban and as I have demonstrated drink has not suddenly become cheaper post ban.

The most important point is that pre ban pub closures ran at 0.6% a year and post ban 2.8%, smoking bans are the only logical conclusion.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 15:02 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Thanks Dave - concession much appreciated, very gracious of you.

Actually I think the supermarket campaign from about 2003 onward did have an effect in this, but I agree with you it is not in drawing people away from pubs. Rather Tesco and Asda squeezed brewers so hard in the off-trade at that time that when it came to renegotiating the bulk beer ties with Pubcos they had no alternative but to try to recover some of their lost profit margin in the on-trade. Which of course got passed on to the poor tenant publican.

Your last comment 'smoking bans are the only logical conclusion' after all that I have said tells me that you are not going to be swayed from your belief, so maybe we can just agree to differ on this and let Simon have his blog back. I'm sure he must think I have hijacked him too much this weekend.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 16:12 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

Come on, Simon(nsc) you can't avoid the logical conclusion that the timing of the sharp spikes in pub closures was caused by the ban and the resultant drop in trade, even if some is indirect, i.e. agreements entered into based on ludicrous projections failing to take the drop into account. To keep denying it's full impact is silly.

I'm sure some of the reticence by pubcos and the like is purely down to having to admit they got it wrong, with all that can entail for individuals and shareholders, companies acts and all that. Bit like the HoC. But it's all based on lies and, resultantly, comes out in the wash, one way or another.

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 17:19 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

simon (nsc) , if you're not convinced by the similarity of decline in pubs in Scotland, Ireland and England and Wales from different smoking ban starting dates, how about bingo? Why would there be a similar drop off in the bingo business after implementation?

<href="">Spanish Bingo Halls Suffer Like Their UK Counterparts

"Spanish culture may be different to UK culture in a number of reasons but they love to play bingo and many Spaniards love a smoke. Spain has also suffered from the recession in recent times but the drop in numbers for bingo halls in Spain replicates the drop in users at UK bingo halls after the smoking ban was introduced."

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 18:17 | Unregistered CommenterMalenfant

"The 2003 study in the journal Tobacco Control confirmed the positive impact of smoking bans on hospitality venues."

"The three independent studies, with declared funding sources and no links to the tobacco industry, found no negative impact of existing UK smoking bans in pubs and restaurants. Pub owners reported that business had either increased or remained the same."

Which they would, because if you look at the studies they are of smoke free areas and not what we would think of as bans at all.

For example

Author and year published: Edwards, 2000 Reference: Edwards R. New Study: 76 per cent of the North East hospitality trade back smoke free areas & over 90 per cent of publicans recommend other pubs try one. 2000. Access date: 8 August 2001.

Location: North East England, UK
Type of policy examined: Smoke-free areas in pubs, restaurants, cafes, hotels, cinemas and theatres

Publisher: Report by the Newcastle University Department of Epidemiology and Public Health for North East Against Tobacco (NEAT)
Funding source indicated: NEAT"

Independant studies?

Funding source indicated: Staffordshire Smoke-free Alliance

Report by Yorkshire Ash Funding source indicated: Yorkshire Ash

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health for North East Against Tobacco (NEAT)

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 18:47 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

I am beginning to suspect that Simon (nsc) is Rollo Tomassi - he sounds very like Rollo. Or maybe a mate of Rollo's? The arguments which S is making are much the same as Rollo's re property values being the chief problem for Punch.

Be that as it may, the fact is that Punch Taverns and The Spirit Group are in the pub business. (We must remember that the two groups merged - there was no takeover as such. The present proposal is a de-merger) They spent a lot of money modernising and changing the nature of the pubs that they acquired. They spent fortunes on furniture and decoration. If their intention was simply to asset strip the property values, they would hardly have done that.

No - they expected to do good business by creating eateries, and for a time it worked. They expected to do even better when the smoking ban was introduced since 'surveys showed' that there was an untaped market of people who were just waiting for the ban before going to these eateries in large numbers. Also, I suspect that they expected to mop up the business of the wet led pubs as they closed down. Oopst! They totally miscalculated. The new business has not materialised and the old business is inexorably collapsing. Oh dear! So how do they service the loans? The prime site argument does not really hold up if the problem is really a cashflow one. In any case, not all the sites which Punch own are town centre prime sites - not by a long chalk.

I think also S's argument about 'meeting friends is more important than smoking' tries to paint a picture which is inaccurate. I think that a very large number of people (perhaps the majority) who go to the pub do so expecting to meet their many acquaintances there rather than making deliberate plans in advance. The whole situation is very loose. I am sure that the implications of such fluidity is pretty obvious with having to be spelt out, except that it is the most socially at risk who's lives are badly affected.

What I think is a very important point about the smoking ban is the fact that it must be very difficult to open new bars. What clientèle might one expect if smokers are excluded?

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 21:38 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

"Is there anyone here who has actually stopped going to pubs because they can't smoke inside? And if so, why?"

Yes, me too. And I now rarely go to restaurants. Or go on holiday in the UK. Why? For the same reason that most people who enjoy drinking alcohol would rarely go to pubs or restaurants or hotels or other holiday accommodation if the drinking of alcohol was banned in all of these places. Yes, it's possible to go to a pub or a nice restaurant and drink soft drinks all night, but that's not a choice most people will make, most of the time. I think statistics would indicate that most people who go to pubs and restaurants like to drink alcohol.

If you are a smoker, who also drinks alcohol, then you'll want to do both at the same time. If I can enjoy a glass of wine and a cigarette at home with friends, why would I choose to go somewhere for my evening's socialising where I'm going to be cold and uncomfortable for some of the time? It's really that simple.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 20:35 | Unregistered CommenterRose W

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