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No patterns have yet emerged but Peter Linacre is already hailing the smoke ban a success It might not be quite the equivalent of "Where were you...

No patterns have yet emerged but Peter Linacre is already hailing the smoke ban a success

It might not be quite the equivalent of "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" or "Where were you on 9/11?" - the answer to the first, by the way, was "Being bathed by my mum" and to the latter "Playing golf at Royal Wimbledon Golf Club", but asking where you were when they banned smoking in pubs has a contemporary feel - and life with smoking already seems to belong to a different age.

We have been doing as much analysis - real and anecdotal - as possible; I have been asking anyone who will tell me, and watching wherever I go, to see what the early impact of the smoking ban might be. The only definitive conclusion seems to be that so far there is no conclusion.

A friend and fellow operator told me he looked at the EPoS data for all of his 100 pubs on a like-for-like basis across each of the first seven days of the ban. His conclusion... no conclusion. He did suggest that the weather was having a considerably bigger and identifiable impact. Almost any current analysis is negated by awful weather comparables.

No surprises there!

In the past few weeks there has been much further forecasting about how many pubs will close as a direct result of the ban, with figures ranging from a very precise "2.7%" (where did they get that from?) to the more general "thousands and thousands".

Talking to numerous smoking customers of ours - there seems to be a far more phlegmatic (sic) approach than perhaps some of us observers and operators have anticipated or feared.

The smokers I have chatted with - under awnings and jumbrellas - seem to be enjoying the "boys camping" approach, so far.

Even the smokers seem to be enjoying the smoke-free atmosphere in pubs and so far I have not been aware of those terrible smells that the lovely smoke was previously hiding from us.

Nor have I detected unfortunate body odours on any customers in our pubs or other companies' pubs I have visited.

What is universal is that all staff greatly enjoy the smell-free environment and, on the basis that banning smoking in the workplace was the real driver behind the legislation, it already has to be judged a huge success on this front.

It seems to me that the pub sector will get through this with great success and will adjust in the way it has adjusted to de-industrialisation; licensing change; societal change; antisocial behaviour by minorities; supermarket pricing; drink-drive laws; health worries and even the anti-alcohol momentum that is now building.

We will change; there will be casualties and suffering, but the ideal that is the great British pub will carry on.

And where was I when the smoking ban came into effect? Actually, I can't remember - it just came and went.

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