Tuesday, 6 August 2019

The Dormouse in the Room

I have read the smoking ban described as "the elephant in the room" in discussions about the decline in pub-going and beer drinking. The point being made is that many people who mourn the decline in pub-going and beer drinking are missing an obvious point, i.e. that the smoking ban is destroying pubs.

I think the survey summarised below refutes that argument quite conclusively. Smoking has been banished from our pubs permanently, and a good thing too. I put up with smoky atmospheres in pubs for more than 35 years, and I think it's quite probable that other people's smoke has exacerbated my sinus problems, which over the years became significantly worse than when I started going to the pub in the early 1970s.

I find it quite extraordinary that a minority of smokers abandoned their social lives in order to avoid the arduous journey of a few seconds' walk to outside the door in order to have a fag. Was the right to smoke inside a pub more important than meeting their friends? If so, they were not particularly loyal friends.

The pub world is changing, as it always has: pubs in the 1950s were quite different from those in the 1970s, and they were different from those in the 1990s, and so on. I do know some lifelong smokers who say they prefer smoke-free pubs and have no problem with going outside to have a smoke.

Bearing in mind that no one under 30 has ever had a drink in a smoke-filled pub or bar, and they are the drinkers of the future, I'd say that this is a lost cause for those who are so committed to their addiction that they believe it's okay to pollute the lungs of non-smoking beer lovers.

I'm pleased to say that, although I know quite a few smokers, none of them is that selfish.


  1. As a lifelong non-smoker who also put up with drinking in smoky pubs for years, I still feel uncomfortable about the ban, especially in wet-led, multi-room pubs where a compromise could have been found in the form of a separate smoking room (as there were in civil service buildings when I started working there). In the warmer months, the ban has led to beer gardens becoming the de facto smoking area, so people who like to sit outside with a pint now have to put up with more second-hand smoke there than in the past, and the idea touted before the ban came in that non-smokers who didn't go to pubs because of the smokiness would all start going clearly hasn't happened.

    In general, I'm against banning other people from doing things they enjoy (including having a fag with their pint and their mates rather than stood outside on their own). The ban fitted into a wider Blairite view that the working-class must be saved from themselves, whether that be smoking, drinking or diet, and pubs, like football grounds, should be turned into places where nice middle-class people like themselves can go for a meal and a glass of wine with their children, as they did on their holidays in Tuscany, without having to encounter working-class people smoking or swearing (one of the few working-class Blairites, John Reid, was a staunch opponent of the ban).

  2. Actually it was a health & safety at work measure. I initially favoured the smoking room idea until the licensee of my local pointed out to me that staff would still have to enter smoking rooms to collect glasses, empty ash trays, clean and tidy up. A previous licensee of that pub died of a serious smoking-related respiratory illness, even though he was a non-smoker. It was caused by second hand smoke after a working life spent in the pub business.

    There is also the fact that smokers and non-smokers are not separate tribes, and non-smokers like to drink with their mates, and if those mates gravitate to the smoking room, they'll follow. This happened in my local which had a separate non-smoking room before the total ban; that room was frequently half empty even when the rest of the pub was be full.

  3. I used to be a smoker and enjoyed a few cigarettes with my pints. Having given up in 1987, I now can't abide the smell of smoke which my non-smoking partner had put up with on clothes and in the house for years.
    I do often though feel sorry for the shivering masses in the appalling shelters or outside the barroom door in the winter months.
    I can't see a return to 'Smoke Rooms' for the reasons outlined by RedNev in the previous comment. No we're better off smoke-free. E-cigs?
    I dunno, are these things any better?

  4. Cheap supermarket booze must surely have somewhat more to do with pubs closing ... and more awareness of the risks of drinkdriving?


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