Pete Robinson: Unhappy birthday for the smoking ban

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ban, Smoking ban, Smoking, Cga strategy

For a start it seems I'm wasting my time here because, according to CGA Strategy, the majority (64%) of you publicans support the ban. And a similar...

For a start it seems I'm wasting my time here because, according to CGA Strategy, the majority (64%) of you publicans support the ban. And a similar number "would not overturn the ban" even if they had the power to do so. Is that what you really believe?

Of course not! If every British publican were in a big room and we asked for a show of hands the true depth of feeling would be obvious. Surveys such as this cut corners by polling larger, city-centre 'pubs' that are today merely licenced food halls. The 'trick' is in the wording of the questions. Other trade research showed that 77% of licensees think trade has suffered as a result of the ban but 78% of consumers are pleased with the ban.

They must be the 78% of consumers who have never used pubs and still don't. I suppose it's all academic anyway because ASH and the NHS tell us most smokers have given up as a result of the ban, or are in the process of doing so.

As you might imagine a great many of my friends and acquaintances are smokers. Hand on heart, I honestly don't know a single person who is giving up. Far from it. For most of us any vague, future notions of quitting we might have once held went directly out of the window last July when New Labour took nannying into a new dimension.

The reality is drastically different to the reports. These days whilst pubs are empty I'm getting invited to more parties than ever, where I rub shoulders with previous non-smokers who have taken up the habit to assure an invite. Personally I hate to see that because I'm not pro-smoking, I'm simply pro-choice.

But what about the improvements in health? CRUK say that 40,000 lives will be saved over the next ten years, although a similar number of our forgotten elderly die unnecessarily over just one year's cold winter. These figures vary so widely it's hard to say who will live or die thanks to the ban.

The TUC say it's 700 lives a year, the same figure claimed last year for Wales alone. That '700 lives' figure is quite significant because in each country where a new ban is introduced it will always save 700 lives, no matter what the nation's demographic.

Heart attack miracles follow the same pattern. A year after a smoking ban figures are released confirming ever increasing falls in heart attacks, only to be discredited when the genuine statistics are revealed. Yet it's the bogus heart figures that always live on.

In the national papers ASH are still quoting Prof Pell's shameful press release trumpeting a 20% fall in Scottish heart attacks as if it were gospel, although to this day she refuses to release the study. The real statistics, you may recall, were consistent with previous pre-ban years. ASH know beyond doubt they are spreading misinformation, but that's their game.

Not to be outdone our NHS is squandering precious resources on attempts to hoodwink the public with claims of up to a 40% fall in heart attacks, an unfeasible stretch of the imagination and yet another gross insult to genuine medical research.

Oh yes, and the Govt survey showing the overwhelming majority of the public support the ban, and are demanding even more stringent action? Hardly surprising to learn it was commissioned by ASH who were paid more handsomely than most other authors of fiction.

If you are daft enough to give credence to any of this raft of figures just cast your mind back to the statistics being pushed before July last year. The polls 'proved' an estimated 18 million 'new' non-smoking customers were poised, ready to invade and occupy your pub from July 1st until eternity. Your existing non-smokers would not only remain completely loyal, but most "intended to visit pubs more often" to enjoy the new healthy, clean aroma of second-hand farts.

The same statistics clearly demonstrated most smokers either supported the ban, intended to give up smoking anyway or would "visit pubs more often" after the ban for the privilege of squatting in a draughty, semi-open hovel in the backyard.

Didn't really work out that way did it? Around 2000 pubs already closed in just the first year, some 10,000 jobs lost within the industry, with the promise of a lot more pain to come. Yet still our industry leaders live in complete denial, like the captain of the Titanic appealing for calm.

Strangely there's just one thing missing from last year's propaganda. In the run up to the UK smoking ban we were constantly being bombarded by comparisons to Ireland's allegedly 'successful' smoking ban. Today it's as if there's been a complete media blackout regarding the emerald isle.

I'm sure you don't need me to explain that the truth is out over there, that their ban has directly led to a significant rise in the smoking population following many years of decline. The last thing we need right now is the truth. The antis would never permit it.

Related topics: Legislation

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