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« The Freedom Dinner 2017 | Main | Revolt in Style: Forest at The Savoy »

Devastating impact of the smoking ban on pubs laid bare

It's the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban on Saturday.

This morning Forest published a new report, Road To Ruin? The impact of the smoking ban on pubs and personal choice.

You can read the full press release on the Forest website but here's a taste:

The smoking ban decimated England’s pubs and hurt local communities, according to a report published today.

New figures obtained by the smokers’ group Forest show there are 11,383 fewer pubs in England compared to 2006, a decline of 20.7 per cent since the smoking ban was introduced on 1st July 2007.

London alone has 2,034 fewer pubs than in 2006, North West England has lost 1,788, Yorkshire is down by 1,589 and the South East has a net loss of 1,013.

But the biggest decline in pub numbers has been in the Midlands where there are 2,560 fewer pubs than before the smoking ban, a drop of 23.7 per cent.

While the fall in the number of pubs is part of a long-term trend and is not solely down to the smoking ban, the report found there was a clear acceleration in pub closures after the ban was enforced, with pubs in poorer urban areas suffering most.

Road To Ruin? was written by Rob Lyons, former deputy editor of the online magazine Spiked. The figures on pub closures were obtained (at great expense!) from research specialists CGA Strategy who are a well respected name in the hospitality industry.

They represent net losses so the number of pub closures will actually be higher because new pubs have opened since 2007 but they are mostly the type of family-friendly establishments championed by the likes of Wetherspoon.

In addition the figures don't reflect the number of pubs that have adapted to the smoking ban by becoming pub restaurants. There are several in my area (and very nice they are too) but to call them pubs, in the traditional sense, is nonsense.

Truth is, the old style boozer is dying out fast. I've no problem with things evolving according to customer demand but the smoking ban had a brutal impact on many pubs, forcing those that were already struggling out of business.

Hardest hit were the urban, inner city pubs, many of which had no outdoor space so smokers were forced to stand outside on the street. A substantial number went out and never came back. Or, if they did, they stopped visiting their 'local' every day.

The Morning Advertiser, which covers the pub trade, published an interesting feature last week. The headline is indicative of where its sympathies now lie (A breath of fresh air: how the smoking ban has changed the pub trade) but at least it acknowledged the fall in numbers of what it calls the "pint-drinking, cigarette-smoking, male regular".

Beyond that however it's clear the trade has turned its back on its traditional customer base in favour of something very different – families with children, for example, hence the focus on food.

Again, I understand the need to evolve but I do think the pub trade is its own worst enemy. When we launched our campaign against the smoking ban in 2004 ('Fight The Ban: Fight For Choice') the support we got from the hospitality industry was laughably inadequate and although most trade bodies said they were opposed to a ban they weren't inclined to stick their hands in their pockets.

By failing to fight for separate smoking rooms and doing nothing to support our subsequent call to relax the regulations so pubs can provide more sheltered outdoor smoking areas, the industry gives the impression of not giving a damn about customers who want to smoke and drink.

There are exceptions of course and some publicans have gone to considerable lengths to accommodate smokers in greater comfort. Only last week, at the Forest boat party, I was shown a picture (by a publican) of a fantastic outdoor smoking 'room' he had erected in the garden of his rural country pub.

It looked magnificent but there aren't enough facilities like that. Worse, as soon as the sun comes out, anti-smokers who happily sit indoors most of the year wander out and demand that the outdoor area belongs exclusively to them too.

I'll post extracts from the report when I get a chance. In the meantime click here if you want to read the whole thing.

See: Cigarette ban killing off British pubs: 11,000 lost in 10 years (Daily Star).

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Reader Comments (8)

This is exactly what I have been telling people since 2006, however I am told to get off my soapbox, even my good lady thinks the pubs are closing because of the price of booze in the pubs. There has been hard times before 2006 and the pubs were still being used as you could have a fag and a natter. Also the supermarkets and offies have always sold booze cheaper than the pubs.

It is nice to finally hear that I am not alone in this thinking.

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

Having just come back from Switzerland where smoking is extremely popular our hotel had a 'Bar Fumertori' a smoking bar. Needless to say it was very popular with an extremely efficient ventilation system. Of course the likes of ASH and PHE and their doctor chums couldn't possibly allow this could they ! Also tobacconists are everywhere with a huge range of brands and no silly plain packaging. I was able to buy amongst other great brands Gauloises Disque Bleu which i haven't seen for years. Visiting a tobacconist in Switzerland is akin to being a kid in a sweetshop and not at all like nanny state Britain !

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 16:52 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Good article by Rob Lyons, albeit more restrained than it could have been.

Where will it be published, if at all? This is something that should be required reading for all politicians, although I doubt that many of them would have the temerity to go up against 'Public Health'.

Who was it who challenged for the mayorality of New York on relaxing the smoking bans, only to be branded the 'pro-cancer candidate' or something? Can't remember now, but that was a perfect illustration of how the prohibitionist mindset works. They set the narrative, and any disagreement is met with ad homs and derision. Free choice be damned - they want people to do what they want. To hell with the consequences.

To be honest, I think the damage has been done. The British pub has been dealt a blow from which it will never recover. I'm only glad I'm of an age where I enjoyed British pubs in their heyday; smoky, friendly, heaving and sociable; full of laughter and friendly banter. I'm glad I left the UK before this act of wanton vandalism was enacted. The few times I've visited UK since the ban, I've found pubs to be a shadow of their former selves - the soul has been torn out of them, and they now have the ambience of a doctor's waiting room that smells of stale beer and piss. The smokers who used to be pub goers have changed their habits, and they won't forget how they were thrown out of their pubs by a spiteful and malicious bunch of fanatics, with the willing compliance of the bulk of the trade, who fell for the lies of ASH et al. I can't see many of them returning to their old pub-going ways.

So sad, and senseless, to destroy an age-old institution that benefited all, in pursuit of a dystopian dream. The instigators of this madness may go unpunished in this life, but if there is a God, they will surely pay for their incalculable hubris when they are judged.

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 17:13 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

The return of smoking in pubs and other indoors spaces is important to free choice. Pubs in the UK and bars worldwide have been devastated by smoking bans but more importantly smokers have been and continue to be persecuted. Tobacco control relied on lies and propaganda to impose the bans. The lies should be exposed.

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 21:25 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

It is refreshing to see a balanced report on the devastation of pubs brought on by the smoking ban.

Hopefully this will be picked up by the press (although I doubt it since they are currently running tobacco control propaganda about 'heart attack miracles' based on false and manipulated data once again--used think they might fact check the press releases they receive at least once in a while).

A quick search of current news reveals dozens of articles advocating new smoking bans globally and of course claiming smoking bans have had no negative effect on business. Of course these are propaganda pieces and there is ample evidence that smoking bans have caused the closure and reduced profits for many bars and casinos worldwide.

This report should be shared with all the major press outlets with copies sent to Members of Parliament, Members of the Scottish Parliament, Assembly Members in Wales, and Members of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland. Also I hope this will be shared with Forest Ireland and Forest EU so key legislators those nations can also be aware of the report.

Monday, June 26, 2017 at 22:12 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Good one Simon!
I did ask you a while back if you had anything planned for the 10 year anniversary and you did not respond! Now I know why!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 14:53 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

It seems the "Daily Advertiser" is doing all it can to appease the pub industry's regulatory overseers (who no doubt are dominated by tobacco control interests) to reject calls for amending smoking bans. This despite smoking bans decimating the pub industry and persecuting smokers.

Check out: "'We don't need to go back to the days of stinking like a rancid ashtray': Your reactions to pro-smoking group's call to review smoking ban".

The title of the article is severely biased and ignores the obvious astroturf assault by antismokers on their Twitter and Facebook pages. The so-called 'majority' comments include standard antismoking memes like "It's nice to come home from a night out not stinking of dirty fags" and "We don't need to go back to the days of stinking like a rancid ashtray" were given priority over comments that suggest the smoking ban has hurt the pub trade.

Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 6:01 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

You managed to get a mention on the BBC here!

Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 15:11 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

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