Pete Robinson: Discarded fag ends and 'irresponsible' landlords

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Related tags: Town centre, Smoking, Cigarette

A while back I wrote about the dishonest claims that smokers dump over 100 tons of fag ends in town centre streets every day, pointing out this...

A while back I wrote about the dishonest claims that smokers dump over 100 tons of fag ends in town centre streets every day, pointing out this equates vastly in excess of the total number of cigarettes actually smoked, anywhere, in the UK.

Now they're back with yet more illogical propaganda.

A survey of 140 councils by the Keep Britain Tidy campaign found the smoking ban has led to a 43% rise in cigarette butts dropped on English pavements.

Yet cross the sea to Northern Ireland and you'll find the same ban only led to an alleged 17% increase. Meanwhile step over the border into Wales, where Keep Wales Tidy claims a mere 7% rise in 'smoking litter'. Tidy smokers those Welsh.

So why the huge discrepancy in regional figures? It's simple. All of these alleged statistics are a load of gonads.

Ginette Unsworth, senior marketing manager at Keep Britain Tidy, said: "We always knew that the smoking ban would have a negative effect on the state of our streets".

Of course you did Ginette, because you are being paid handsomely to exaggerate the smoking litter menace. 'Keep Britain Tidy' is in fact a name used by ENCAMS (Environmental Campaigns Ltd), a limited company supplying environmental statistics to the Govt in return for £££-millions from public finds.

There are four main reasons why the government, together with our Local Authorities, need such damning 'evidence':

1) To keep smokers socially isolated and impose £80 fines.

2) To portray pub landlords as irresponsible and unconcerned about their local community.

3) To raise green taxes and increase business rates from licencedpremises.

4) To justify forthcoming Govt measures in 2010 which will see smoking banned from outside pubs, including pub gardens and smoking shelters.

Buried in the ENCAMS website is a detailed explanation of how to conduct a fag-end survey. You only need count the 'dockers' along certain sections of pavement then use those findings as a ratio to calculate the ciggy-butt total for any town centre area.

What's the betting that those areas surveyed were exclusively outside the busiest pubs, conducted at peak times before the pub's staff had swept up at the end of the night?

These preposterous claims are conveniently timed to coincide with the launch this month of a campaign, 'Cigarette Litter Countdown'. Interesting to note this new campaign was announced long before the ban even started, hence it was necessary to get creative with the figures in order to justify the planned campaign.

Local Authorities are wasting no time in taking advantage of the opportunity.

Ribble Valley Council is to use new powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act to require pubs and takeaway food outlets to keep the street outside their premises litter-free. If they do not they can be hit with fines of £500.

Discarded fag ends are even being blamed for blocked drains leading to the recent floods in Market Raisen, despite the fact that town centre drains were blocked with grass growing out of them that had 'clearly been doing so for ages'. Locals said there was a buddleia tree growing out of one drain.

Bournemouth council is one of ten pilot councils planning to use CCTV cameras trained on pubs to target smokers. Offenders may also be 'named and shamed' to tackle the problem.

Meanwhile, Chris Horner, head of street scene at nearby Christchurch council, said: "The lads are saying it's been no different since the smoking ban and they can't see what all the fuss is about."

And there we have it. Smokers aren't intentional litter louts and will use outside ashtrays where provided. By now I would think most landlords sweep up outside to avoid criticism and keep their frontage more welcoming.

Take a walk through your town centre and you are unlikely to see the mountains of discarded cigarette ends suggested. What you will find is hardened chewing gum set like concrete into every square foot of block-paving. You will see dog crud in plentiful supplies. Fly tipping is a problem everywhere.

Yet the smoker and his landlord are still portrayed as environmental villains. With the even rising tide of officially sanctioned propaganda it certainly is war on pubs.

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