Tuesday, July 01, 2008

UK - smoking ban is 'killing the British pub'

More than three pubs close every day in Britain

Today, one year on from the smoking ban which came into force in Britain, many of the country’s pubs are struggling to survive [CNN]. Many landlords and managers say profits are down by as much as 30% because of the ban, which has been compounded by the effects of the credit crunch. Some 1,409 pubs closed over the course of 2007, a staggering increase compared to the 216 closures seen the year before, and many bar owners do not believe the situation will improve. Gary Heronsby-Smith, landlord of The Cherry Tree, told the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph that the smoking ban was killing his business. “Before (the ban), 95 per cent of my customers were smokers but they have gone. I don't have an outside area, we're a land-locked pub” he said. Rob Hayward, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, also talks of a bleak outlook for the pub industry. “Britain’s pubs are grappling with spiralling costs, sinking sales, fragile consumer confidence and the impact of the smoking ban,” he claims. “A vital part of the British economy and social life is under the most severe strain it has faced for decades.”

While many have hailed the ban a success with claims of smokers giving up the habit and reported heart attacks down, businesses are realing. Last year a leading health insurance company claimed that the English smoking ban would “enable village and town pubs across the UK to play an even more integral role in community life”. But few have seen an influx of new customers. Smokers are preferring to stay at home and some publicans are also blaming the cheap beer available in supermarkets for the drop in trade [Sunday People / Daily Telegraph].

The closure of so many pubs is also having an effect on people’s social life. Kate Burt, who started savetheboozer.com, has destroyed what was once the only meeting place for a whole cross-section of society. “Where else – apart from, possibly, the Post Office queue – do different ages, classes and cultures combine on equal footing and communicate, sharing a story, gripe or joke? All these reasons and more are why I started ‘Save the Boozer’, an online celebration of old-style pubs to remind people to support and cherish their unglamorous local while they still can” she told the Independent on Sunday. On the plus side the number of smokers successfully quitting has soared because of the smoking ban in England. Research shows that almost 235,000 people managed to stub it out with help from the NHS in the nine months from April to December 2007, up 22 per cent on the year before. The figures, in a Department of Health report to be published next week, are being used as evidence that the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces has been a success. Little reported is the numbers of people taking up the habit in Ireland where a ban came into effect in 2004 [Irish Times].
Today the Netherlands was the latest country to see a smoking ban, a tobacco smoking ban that is. Coffee shops across the country are still able to welcome those who wish to participate in smoking cannabis, though they are forbidden to mix it with tobacco [BBC]. This in itself may cause problems in trying to enforce the ban, but many are happy enough to smoke something at least. Some may have thought they had smoked a little too much as they saw llamas, giraffes and camels running wild after they escaped from a circus on Monday [CNN].

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