Living Rooms: They’re the new Smoking Rooms

By Mark Daniels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Smoking ban

Daniels: the smoking ban did cause a massive downturn in the pub sector
Daniels: the smoking ban did cause a massive downturn in the pub sector
So David Cameron has announced that he supports the smoking ban and thinks that it has worked — cue every smoking zealot spouting figures to the contrary, and everybody else telling them to shut up and get on with it.

I’ve always been vehemently against the ban, although for a long while now I have fallen in to the ‘better get on with life’ camp.

Not because I’m a smoker — I’m not: I’ve never even taken a drag on a cigarette — but because I felt the ban was brought in for all the wrong reasons and with all the wrong legislation.

No thought process appeared to be truly put behind it and what we ended up with was a knee-jerk reaction to health lobbyists that resulted in a blanket ban on smoking in all public locations.

Now it’s being heralded as a success, but based on what metric? It’s easy to move statistics around to get the figures needed in order to prove something right or wrong. Anybody who’s familiar with Microsoft Excel will know how to make changes to formulae in order to achieve the result they want, and surveys can be held in different locations in order to pick a demographic that will be favourable to their cause.

Eight out of ten cats prefer Whiskas, but who’s to say the alternative they were offered wasn’t Pedigree Chum?

The simple fact is this: the smoking ban did cause a massive downturn in the pub sector that saw many struggle to survive, followed swiftly by the blow of the recession. With nowhere to turn, smoking Britons headed for the only smoking room they could: their living rooms, where a heady concoction of low-cost supermarket booze and high definition talent contests seems to have kept a lot of them trapped for the past four years.

The Smoking Ban also saw many traditional pubs fall by the wayside. A lot closed their doors for good, becoming the preserve of property developers or Grand Designs contestants, while others became curry houses or gastropubs in order to survive and one or two reopened as that height of modern society: a Tesco Metro.

If I do my own survey of how the Ban has affected my pub, the figures are quite simple. In the past four years, only one of my regular customers has given up smoking. Of my smoking friends outside the industry, none have given up the habit. Those who used to come in at 9pm for a late drink and have several pints and a smoke now turn up at 5pm for a quick pint and then head home.

At this time of year, the lure of their home’s oil-fired central heating is stronger than the prospect of huddling around a polar icecap melting gas heater while the wind keeps blowing out the match needed to light their Benson & Hedges.

I’m not campaigning for a change in the legislation; I believe it’s too late for such a thing to happen now. It’s simply a case of pointing out to people like Mr Cameron that the ban is only successful depending on how you look at it, and many still view it as the single biggest cause of damage to our income.

Most of our neighbouring countries have introduced smoking bans too, but a lot of them seem to have dealt with it in a more sensible fashion. Those establishments in the Mediterranean region aren’t bothered by it because the warm climate means they all stand outside, while in France nobody takes any notice of what the government tells them to do anyway.

And on a visit to Zurich last month to stay with some friends I couldn’t help but notice how the Swiss bars have dealt with their ban: smoking rooms! What a novel idea…

Over there, it wasn’t the fact that I had to sit in a smoky environment with my friends while we had a jolly good laugh that bothered me, but the fact that each time I left the room and headed to the bar it cost me £7 a pint…

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