Wednesday, August 01, 2007

UK smoking ban 'adds to global warming'

The China Daily reported last month a ban in Guanzhou

A month after the nationwide smoking ban in public places came into force in Britain, the country has seen a dramatic decline in numbers going to pubs, bars and bingo halls. There has also been an increase in the use of patio heaters, drawing criticism from environmentalists [BBC]. Whilst the relatively warm summer months give smokers refuge in pub gardens, many establishments, especially those in towns and cities are losing customers. And even those with gardens are increasingly using patio heaters which can issue more carbon dioxide than a domestic gas cooker. "Just to give you some idea of the scale, the average patio heater uses the same amount of energy as a gas hob uses in six months and we estimate that the average patio heater would emit around 50kg of carbon dioxide per year," says Jon McGowan, of the Energy Saving Trust, who is leading a campaign against their use. Over the last 18 months, their use in pubs and restaurants has increased with the smoking bans, to 12,500.

Pub customers 'down 40%'

But besides efforts by some establishments to make their gardens a little more comfortable for their smoking clientele, customer numbers are dropping. According to the Sunday Mirror, some establishments had seen a 40% drop in business [Sunday Mirror]. According to the article more than half of the 70 pubs, members-only clubs and bingo halls had lost money since the ban came into effect. Simon Olley, landlord of Beacon Court Tavern in Gillingham, Kent, told the Sunday Mirror, "We've had a slide of about 10 to 20 per cent. I'd like to know where the nonsmokers that were supposed to be coming into pubs when the ban was introduced are. I haven't seen any."
In Scotland, where the ban was introduced in March last year, beer sales are down seven per cent and 34 per cent of pubs have laid off staff, whilst Ireland has seen a 7% a year drop in sales. And with hostility amongst consumers increasing, some publicans are allowing customers to continue smoking rather than subjecting staff to possible violence and abuse. Tony Blows, of the Dog Inn at Ewyas Harold, in Herefordshire, said the ban, introduced across England on 1 July, contradicted health and safety laws. Herefordshire Council said it may review whether Mr Blows was a "fit and proper person" to hold a pub licence. Mr Blows said that under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty of care to provide a safe place of work for all staff. He said he believed asking bar staff at the village pub to confront smokers would contradict those guidelines. Mr Blows said: "When people come in here I tell them that smoking in a public place like this is against the law and they could face a £50 fine or a court appearance. "However, because of the previous health and safety rulings, we can't enforce it. "This is not an excuse to just get us out of the smoking ban - anyone who looks on the Health and Safety Executive's website can see the contradiction there in black and white." [BBC]. But while the Sunday Mirror suggested a decline in sales and hostility to the ban, a survey by the BBC suggested more than 50% of publicans had reported ‘positive feedback’ from customers, and said only a fifth of pubs had experienced a loss in sales. As the nights get colder even these conservative figures may increase as the refuge of the pub garden becomes an uncomfortable refuge for the committed smoker.

World ban on the way

Whilst Britain’s smokers suffer the latest inconvenience in their lives, restrictions against smokers are increasing all over the world. France, once considered the land of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, is due to implement a smoking ban in public places next year. And in Germany, measures are already been test for a country wide ban [Deutche-Welle]. The small Himalayan state of Bhutan faces the toughest restrictions where tobacco products are entirely banned from sale [BBC]. In Europe, smoking restrictions are already in place in Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia and Spain. Even China is set to impose restrictions on smokers. Guangzhou is to become the 89th city in China to ban smoking in cinemas and department stores later this year with further restrictions to come. The city, home to 1.6 million smokers, faces a fraught task in stopping any flouting of the proposed rules. Smoking in public, especially amongst the male population, is common place and one will often see people smoke in places long considered taboo in the West. Smokers can be spotted in shops, at swimming pools and in taxis. Even police officers in uniform can often be seen taking a cigarette break as motorcyclists, without crash helmets, pass by drawing on a 555 International.
As ‘health-fascism’ and the ‘nanny-state’ imposes restrictions on the individual, in the supposed effort of reducing smoking-related deaths and disease, governments still draw huge amounts of tax from such products. Little of this is allocated to public health care. In addition, there is continued ignorance of industrial polluters who, it could be agued, create a greater or equal risk to the general public at large.

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