The call comes after Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) published its report Road to ruin? The impact of the smoking ban on pubs and personal choice today (26 June).
Forest claims it shows the smoking ban “decimated” England’s pubs and “hurt local communities”.
The report also claims there are 11,383 fewer pubs in England compared to 2006, a decline of 20.7% since the smoking ban was introduced on 1 July 2007.
Forest has conceded the fall in the number of pubs is part of a long-term trend and is not solely down to the smoking ban, however, but does claim there was a “clear acceleration” in pub closures after the ban was enforced.
Report author Rob Lyons said 10 years on from the introduction of the ban, the Government should “order a full review of the impact of the legislation and consider alternatives to the current comprehensive ban”.
“The smoking ban has been a kick in the teeth for the traditional British boozer, especially in our urban inner cities,” he said.
Forest director Simon Clark added that “thousands of pubs have closed and choice has been sacrificed on the altar of tobacco control”.
He said: “Allowing separate well-ventilated smoking rooms or relaxing the unnecessarily strict regulations on outdoor smoking areas would reignite freedom of choice and give publicans greater control over their business.”
However, Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls said it was certain – through communications with both operators and customers – there is “very little appetite for the reintroduction of smoking inside pubs”.
Commenting on the report, Nicholls continued to state it was “impossible” to accurately gauge the impact of the smoking ban on pubs in isolation – “especially given the tumultuous state of the economic market and consumer confidence in 2007".
“While we know that there were closures, there are also openings, particularly of food-led pubs,” she said.
“Pubs have proven to be resilient businesses and have innovated to safeguard their commercial interests, for example by increasing their food offer, which would surely not have flourished as much in smoky environments.”
'Perfect storm' for pubs
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds agreed and said although the smoking ban “undoubtedly hit many pubs hard”, it also coincided with a major recession and huge rises in the tax on beer.
“It was a ‘perfect storm’ for many pubs, and very difficult to separate out all of the various factors,” she said.
“Traditional, wet-led pubs that relied heavily on drink sales, and perhaps didn’t have the site to create an attractive outside smoking area, or the opportunity to create a successful food-led business, were the worst affected but, of course, many food-led businesses have adapted successfully.”