Vending machine ban could break pubs

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cigarette vending machines Smoking ban Vending machine Cigarette machine Vending machines

Vending machines: Facing the axe
Vending machines: Facing the axe
A massive 74% of licensees believe the smoking ban has been bad for business — a damning statistic that could become worse if cigarette vending machines are banned.

A massive 74% of licensees believe the smoking ban has been bad for business with 47% laying off staff as a direct result — damning statistics that could become worse if cigarette vending machines are banned.

On the day the Government's consultation on further tobacco controls ended, which proposes a ban on vending machines, a survey of 912 BII and Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations members revealed the full extent of devastation the ban has wreaked on the trade.

Before the ban came into effect on 1 July 2007, 54% of trade at pubs was estimated to come from smokers — today that is just 38% with almost no increase in visits from non-smokers to compensate for the drop.

BII chief executive John McNamara said there was "severe apprehension and concern" over proposals to either ban vending machines, use an infra-red control or token system or even push sales under the counter.

A total of 42% of members said they believed a ban on vending machines would be bad for trade. Vending machines account for just 1% of all tobacco sales.

"We do not believe that vending in pubs is in any way a significant source of cigarettes for underage smokers, and as with the smoking ban, the effect will be to drive customers away," said McNamara. "To use a sledgehammer again is, frankly, nuts."

"The aim of the Government was to stop smokers from smoking — all it seems to have achieved is to stop smokers from going to pubs, encouraging them to stay at home and drink and smoke as much as they like.

He added: "If we value the pub as a British symbol of community and heritage then regulation must be better thought through."

Straw that breaks the camel's back

Licensees typically earn 20-25p commission on each pack of cigarettes bought and former BII licensee of the year and trade consultant Ali Carter believes that revenue would be a huge loss.

"As a licensee a vending machine was one of my most profitable lines as all I had to do was put the machine in the bar and feed it with electricity and each month I got a cheque," she said.

"Pubs are highly regulated environments and any further restrictions on vending are simply not necessary.

"A ban would take away one more lifeline helping to keep pubs afloat. It could be the final straw that breaks the camel's back."

BII deputy chairman Bernard Brindley said that if cigarette sales were pushed below the counter "it would be the end of cigarette sales at pubs". He believes that security, space, staff theft and an increase in costs would cause problems for licensees. "It would be a service nightmare," he said.

Paul Mair of the Cherwell Group vending machines added: "You would then have to choose which brands you could stock and tie hundreds of pounds up in stock. Theft is also an issue. For some reason staff who would never pinch a £5 note think it is acceptable to take a pack of cigarettes."

To add an infra-red sontrol system, controlled by bar staff, to unlock machines would cost around £150 per machine to install Mair estimated.

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