Happy smoking ban day everybody! – don’t believe big tobacco’s corporate spin

Four years on, the smoking ban is popular and defintive claims that it has led to more pubs shutting are unsubstantiated.

By Amanda Sandford, Research Manager of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

England’s pubs and restaurants went smokefree four years ago today. To mark the event ASH has released new data which shows that public support for the measure remains high: 78% of the population are in favour of the law, including almost half of all smokers (47%).  Now more smokers support than oppose the law. Meanwhile, an independent review of the impact of the smokefree law found no significant decrease in the number of people visiting pubs or restaurants before or after the legislation.

How very different to the claims made by the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign that the smokefree law is causing pubs to close and that the way to solve the problem is to bring the smoke back into pubs.    

So who exactly would support such a move? And who is behind the thinly disguised campaign to amend one of the most popular pieces of health legislation every introduced?

A handful of MPs have put their names to the ‘Save Our Pubs’ campaign but the main protagonist is the tobacco-industry funded pressure group, FOREST and Japan Tobacco International. The claim that many pubs blame the smoking ban for the loss of business is hardly proof of cause and effect.

Other shaky data were revealed in a briefing on the pub trade pre- and post the public places smokefree law which claims that there has been a “marked decline” in the number of pubs in the UK since the implementation of the smoking bans.

This appears to be an update of earlier research by the same organisation – Corporate Responsibility Consulting – which established a “very close relationship” between the rate of decline of pubs and the implementation of smoking bans.

The authors don’t appear to disclose their funders but they have form. Their client list includes the Tobacco Manufacturers Association.  The calls might be new but the claims are as stale as the air in a smoky pub.   

These reports use what they call a “subjective” definition of pubs. Such surveys have been known to reclassify pubs as restaurants and so claim they have “closed” as pubs when they are simply selling more food.  In fact the business stays open, the staff keep their jobs, the name of the bar doesn’t change.

But why not use an objective measure? After all, we know precisely how many licences were issued and the number of premises licensed for on sale and off sale increased by 5% the year England and Wales went smokefree and has risen every year since.    

Of course pubs, like all small businesses have been hard hit by the recession. But the tobacco lobby group assertion that thousands of pubs in England and Wales are under threat of closure due to the smoking ban does not stand up to scrutiny. The British public are enjoying the benefits of smokefree drinking and dining and there is little appetite for a return to the bad old days of smoke-filled pubs.

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57 Responses to “Happy smoking ban day everybody! – don’t believe big tobacco’s corporate spin”

  1. J. Stewart

    “The claim that many pubs blame the smoking ban for the loss of business is hardly proof of cause and effect.”

    Because, in the parallel universe inhabited by ASH, the first-hand experience of publicans who saw their smoking customers desert doesn’t constitute evidence whereas polls conducted by a member of ASH does.

  2. Chris Snowdon


    You do realise that the number of on-licenses are not a proxy of the number of pubs, don’t you? On licenses are required for weddings, garden fetes, street parties, hotels, restaurants, cafes etc. etc. In addition, you appear to have included off-licenses, which no one has ever claimed would be affected by the smoking ban.

    If you wanted an “objective” measure of how many pubs there are, you could have consulted the figures from the British Beer and Pub Association which show, as everybody except ASH have long recognised, that the pub industry has had a disastrous few years.


    You can argue all you like about whether the smoking ban is the main reason for that – it is ultimately unprovable, although the combined evidence strongly suggests that it was- but denying there have been 1000s of pub closures at all makes you look ridiculous.

    As for being “one of the most popular pieces of health legislation every introduced”, how many other pieces of health legislation were still opposed by 22% of the population four years after being introduced?

  3. Jim

    I used to be an antismoker. I was brainwashed to fear and hate smoking and smokers. Everything about smokers bothered me. I was happy when they got kicked out of workplaces. Then I hated that they got to go outside to have smoke breaks. Even though they were doing their work, I started spreading rumors that they were wasting the boss’s time. I would constantly rib the smokers that they stunk, that they were stupid addicts, they were harming people like me, and that they were a drain on society. I would tell them that their smoke was contaminating my hair and my clothes and that I had to keep taking showers to get their stink off me. But those idiots kept smoking. Then those cigarette butts started to bother me. I didn’t notice them before, but now I was seeing them everywhere. And they kept getting bigger and bigger. I would tell the smokers that they were trashing the world. I even tried to get smoking banned in my apartment complex. I was consumed with this hatred. I had even joined a few nonsmokers groups that were trying to get smokers kicked out of more places.

    Then one day I was sitting in the park over lunch. I had the most incredible “light bulb” moment. It dawned on me so clearly that I had become a bigot, a rabid bigot. I was driven by stupid fear and hate. I had turned people that smoke who are people just like me into something terrible that had to be put down. I had made them enemies. I had done this. And there were plenty of people that wanted me to feel this way. That’s the way society was going, they would tell me. It’s progressive, they would say. I had been convinced that mistreating and bullying smokers was “normal”. Not any more. I gave all of that trash up. I feel way, way calmer. I’m like a new man. I get along with people better, especially smokers. I think smokers are a forgiving lot. I’m still surprised that one of them hadn’t hit me plumb in the nose for all my constant harassment. But that’s over now. I feel like a normal, good human being again, able to relate to people as people first and foremost.

  4. Jim

    The Grouchy Marxist: “Anyone would think you expect to persuade them through rational argument and evidence.”

    We should be thankful to the Grouchy Marxist, an obviously superior intellect (at least according to him). The Marxist has been good enough to elevate the standard of dialogue on this board with the following impartial, rational “gems”:

    “Nicotine really can drive you crazy, and I mean PJ, not the nutter with the gun.”

    “Dumbest pro-carcinogen position so far in this thread?”

    “It takes a certain perverse brilliance to come up with something as nit-witted as that!”

    Three cheers for the Grouchy Marxist!

  5. Jim

    Anti-smokers seem to be under-represented on this board. So allow me to address this imbalance by contributing some standard anti-smoking “rationality”.

    – I fully support a ban on smoking everywhere. I am a hypochondriac. I am easily offended by these selfish smokers who want to pollute me with their toxic, cancer-causing, filthy smoke. I have to constantly hold my breath walking along the footpath to avoid the toxic smoke pollution. What is the world coming to when a normal person like me can’t have a walk or a meal without being assaulted by inconsiderate, pro-carcinogen addicts? Did I mention that smokers are selfish? Smokers are selfish!

    – I want smoking banned. I am a somatizer. I believe every little pang and poke I feel must be caused by my being subjected to toxic, polluting smoke. What else could it be? Some have told me that it’s all in my mind, but that sounds farfetched. I have had many experiences where I have been enjoying a meal outside and smokers decide to light up. Within just minutes, I have found myself enveloped in a thick cloud of toxic smoke. I am unable to see inches in front of me, barely able to make out the food dish directly in front of me, and my sense of taste vanishes. Trying to see the waiter, let alone get his attention, becomes another ordeal. Smokers are really selfish.

    – Get rid of smoking. I hate that these people can smoke outside and poison the whole environment – birds drop dead and shrubbery shrivels, leaving a Moon-like landscape in outdoor eateries. Everywhere should only cater for normal people who don’t smoke – like me. Why should normal people – like me – have to put up with even a whiff of that lethal, toxic smoke produced by the pro-carcinogen addicts? And don’t even get me started on those horrible saliva-dripping cigarette butts that those selfish smokers think they can pollute our planet with.

    – There is definitely a “smoker problem”. I detest these addicts. Their smoke gets into your hair and clothes. At times I’ve had to shower three, four, five, six times a day, leaving my skin raw from trying to scrape off that noxious stink. I have my clothes dry-cleaned four times a day. And kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray. Not that I’ve ever kissed an ashtray….. I’ve just been told so….. by people who obviously have kissed an ashtray.

  6. prog

    #47 ‘And kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray’.

    But, for most self obsessed anti smoking bastards, worth it if there’s any chance of a shag. Thinking about it, the worst probably skip the kissing stage.

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