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Labour wants to address the demise of the British pub - hypocrites!

I was in Brussels this week when I heard that Labour's leaked manifesto included a section about smoking:

Labour will implement a Tobacco Control Plan, focussing on issues of mental health and children smokers, along with groups in society, such as BAME and LGBT communities, with high prevalence of the use of tobacco products.

More interesting perhaps was the commitment to set up a National Review of Local Pubs "to examine the causes for the large-scale demise of pubs."

Seriously, you could have heard me laughing back in London as I scribbled a quick statement and sent it to the usual suspects plus the Morning Advertiser, the pub trade journal:

"We support the idea of a review but it's a bit late for the thousands of pubs that closed as a direct result of the smoking ban that was introduced by the last Labour government in 2007.

"The party ignored warnings that the ban would have a devastating impact so it's stunning hypocrisy to make the plight of pubs an election issue ten years later.

"The smoking ban isn't the only reason for the demise of Britain's pubs but it is a significant factor.

"In recent years polls have consistently shown majority support for allowing well-ventilated designated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs.

"If a review is to be more than a PR exercise it must take public opinion into account and consider an amendment to the ban that would meet the demands of all customers, smokers and non-smokers alike."

The Morning Advertiser reported the manifesto policy but ignored our response. Instead they quoted several pub trade spokesman including the saintly Bridget Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.

Typically they all banged on about business rates as if this is the sole cause of thousands of pubs closing over the last ten years.

I'm sure it is a factor - together with cheap supermarket beer and changing social trends - but to ignore the impact of the smoking ban is downright perverse.

As I've pointed out before, the data is clear. In the 12 months after the introduction of smoking bans in Ireland (2004), Scotland (2006), England, Wales and Northern Ireland (2007) there was a significant increase in pub closures that cannot be attributed to anything else.

The recession struck in the second quarter of 2008, making a bad situation even worse, but the damage had already been done (see Smoking gun: is the smoking ban a major cause of the decline of the British pub?).

Subsequent research in 2010 (The British smoking bans: stubbing out the urban pubs) demonstrated that the pubs that suffered most were landlocked inner city pubs, most of them in Labour constituencies.

The irony wasn't lost on us nor is the hypocrisy of a party that pledges to investigate the damage they accelerated when they enforced the smoking ban - against public opinion - in 2007.

Anyway, it's completely academic. Labour have absolutely no chance of winning the election so they can promise whatever they like and it will make no difference to the result on June 8.

Instead we must try and persuade Theresa May's government to commission its own review of the decline of the British pub, examining every factor and what can be done to resuscitate this endangered institution.

Sadly I fear the smoking ban has done to Britain's pubs what the Beeching cuts did to the railways. Hundreds of stations were closed and thousands of miles of track were torn up. Fifty years later people still question whether that was the right decision.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban in England it's not too late to save the traditional pub (by which I don't mean the gastro, child-friendly establishments that have become so ubiquitous) but the patient is in intensive care and needs urgent life-saving measures - including the option of comfortable smoking rooms indoors and out - if it's to survive.

Update: As part of their policy to legalise cannabis the Lib Dems have announced they would allow small "cannabis social clubs".

That seems reasonable to me.

What's odd is that the Lib Dems support the smoking ban and there's no mention in their manifesto of amending the legislation to allow, for example, small social clubs where people can smoke tobacco.

Doesn't seem very logical to me but that's the Lib Dems for you.

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Reader Comments (8)

The smoking ban isn't the only reason for the demise of Britain's pubs but it is a significant factor

It's the only reason I no longer visit pubs, I'm not getting all dressed up for the evening just to stand outside.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 13:32 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Pub closures affected communities almost as much as the coal mine closures.

I have not been out in 10 years and go only when I have no choice such as when at work or a formal work or family event that I have to attend. I eat my packed lunch outside in the rain and even during storm Doris. I began my smoking life behind the school bike sheds, I continue in grannyhood behind the work bike sheds.

I will not be forced to accept the ban and the first time I choose to go into a cafe or pub where I am banned during my own free time, then I am saying I accept the discrimination aimed at me and I will never do that.

The ban was unnecessary and was enforced for one reason alone - to make other people hate and fear smokers in a bid to bully us out of society.

We have paid our way, we are people too, discrimination is discrimination however they dress it in disguise. The smoking ban was the day this country said we are now abandoning our values that say all people matter and hatred towards any group is unacceptable.

They forced us into the identity of smoker and then encouraged others to attack us.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 13:53 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Smoking bans destroyed pubs and bars worldwide. I suspect they knew they would all along. After all tobacco controllers often share temperance sentiments. The 'healthist' lifestyle control ideology is tat the core of this hysteria that destroys economic and political life in pursuit of totalitarian control.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 21:40 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Labour did what the TUC and GMB demanded and voted for a total ban.

MPs urged to vote for total smoking ban
“Unions and public health officers are urging MPs to back a total ban on smoking in public places, including pubs and clubs. The calls come after the government’s decision last week to allow Labour MPs a free vote on the smoking ban proposals in the health Bill (Risks 239).

The TUC has already called for a ban without exceptions. And last week GMB organiser Mick Ainsley, whose union organises casino workers, said: ‘We are writing to all GMB sponsored MPs to remind them that the issue here is not about a smoker’s individual choice"

They may want to distance themselves from that now.

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 9:16 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

I wonder how pleased the unions are at the massive number of workers forced into unemployment not just from pubs but the attacks on industry and consumers since the ban that has affected every industry.

Remember the hypocrisy from them and Labour when thousands lost their jobs when factories closed after Andrew Lansley boasted about forcing tobacco out of this country and then did.

I wonder how many more workers will be forced into unemployment in retail too thanks to the attacks on consumer rights and govt encouragement of black market sales after PP. This all followed that initial union demand for a full pub ban, and therefore the union demand that people be put out of work.

This is why I don't trust unions and would never become a member myself. Neither would I ever be so stupid as to ever vote labour again.

Perhaps I should vote libdem.They may plan to whack up tax on the poor's simple pleasures but they do plan to allow smokers to have their own social clubs - if they smoke cannabis.

Crazy upside down world we live in 😥

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 13:57 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

"Perhaps I should vote libdem.They may plan to whack up tax on the poor's simple pleasures but they do plan to allow smokers to have their own social clubs - if they smoke cannabis."

Yet, cannabis smoke contains (save for nicotine) basically the same carcinogenic components as tobacco smoke and in similar concentrations. I wonder why the libdem politicos are not concerned with protecting hospitality workers from nasty cannabis SHS. Their relatively benign attitude to cannabis merely reveals how the libdem and labour parties repulsion to smoking is merely a cultural trend (like conservatives repulsing homosexuality) that has nothing to do with science or health.

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 20:28 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto


When the pubs started shutting down the GMB recruited the landlords and blamed the pub companies for the closures, who were also taking a serious hit from the sudden lack of customers.

GMB demonstrates for total ban
Thursday 24 November 2005
"Hospitality workers from the GMB union make a point about the dangers of second-hand smoke at a protest outside a Gala casino in London last week.

The protesters were marking National Lung Cancer Day (17 November) by donning gas masks and calling on the Government to introduce a total ban on smoking in public places that doesn't exempt private members' clubs and pubs that don't serve food.

About 100,000 workers in hospitality will still be exposed to second-hand smoke under the Government's plans."

5 years later

GMB union urges end to beer tie

“These pubcos, which own 25,000 pubs, are piled up with billions of pounds worth of debts. They are overcharging pubs by up to 80p a pint to pay the interest charges.
It is this overcharging which is killing the pubs and driving them out of business."

“Britain’s pubs survived two world wars.
They cannot survive being made to be cash cows to pay off the debts of the property companies and brewers that so clearly don’t have the interests of pubs and consumers at heart.”
http: //
Now missing

GMB: pubco tenants interests too disparate for industrial action

"Trade Union the GMB claims the interests of tied tenants are “too disparate” for them to unite and take industrial action against pubcos — plus tenants fear the power of the pubcos."

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 21:05 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Cheap supermarket booze had nothing to do with it, that's just a scapegoat.
Booze has always been cheaper in supermarkets because they only sell the booze; pubs sell an evenings entertainment.
And nobody ever blames restaurant decline on cheap supermarket food.

Monday, May 15, 2017 at 14:22 | Unregistered CommenterBucko

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