Pinstripe: Is the smoking ban the industry's biggest headache?

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Related tags: Smoking ban, Smoking

Hamish Champ is away on his hols and has asked if I would step into the breach and pen a few words for the next couple of Mondays in his absence. I'd...

Hamish Champ is away on his hols and has asked if I would step into the breach and pen a few words for the next couple of Mondays in his absence.

I'd had a go at this 'blogging' lark for The Publican​ a couple of years ago at his request before other commitments got in the way. I realise that in between the last time I wrote and now there have been a few developments in the pub industry.

The indebtedness of certain pub companies has been a headache for a number of my City acquaintances and said businesses' shareholders, while the government's insistence on turning the screw on publicans with reams of red tape appears to be going through the sector like a dose of salts.

I understand many publicans are unhappy with things like the beer tie and the supermarkets selling cheap beer, but what has really got my own goat firmly by the beard since I last wrote on this website is the smoking ban.

The ban is an emotive issue. It stirs up a whole range of issues. I understand this because I am a smoker. I am irritated at having to stand outside my favourite restaurant in order to be able to indulge in a habit that's not illegal to pursue, not currently anyway.

Hamish tells me that he is not anti-smoking, but that whenever he mentions the words 'smoking' and 'ban' in the same sentence he gets heavily criticised, regardless of what he's written. I reminded him that if you run with the hounds you'd better be prepared to get bitten by even the most well-meaning mutt.

I'll admit I don't visit pubs all that often, but I'm aware some companies now take the view that their establishments are more pleasant places to visit and are much, MUCH cleaner following the ban's introduction. Many are certainly uncontaminated by customers.

What I don't get is the willingness of the British smoking public to allow this state of affairs to happen. Where has the backbone of this country gone?

A friend of mine works in the tobacco industry and takes a pretty dim view of the way European democracies have rolled over in the face of local health lobbies, much like the French military did to the Wehrmacht in 1940.

With such capitulation on the cards pretty much everywhere my friend's company has for some time focussed its attention on markets in places like the Far East, where a man can have a cigarette pretty much when and where he likes. And long may their rights be un-assailed.

Freedom of choice, that's what it boils down to. And we have less of this in our country now than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

More laws, more rules and more regulations than ever. And for what? It's not as if we're any better off, economically, socially or culturally.

Sadly I don't see David Cameron doing much to change the way things are now in the way Blair's New Labour scuppered the good things the Conservatives had achieved throughout the 1980s.

But one can surely hope for change. One can surely hope.

Sebastian Connerie, aka Pinstripe, works in the City and is an occasional columnist for views are purely personal.

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