The two blogs that sit either side of this one in Wikio beer and wine rankings this month also seem to sit either side of me in opinion on the smoking ban. Pub Curmudgeon has always disagreed with the smoking ban and in fact declares it is one reason his blog was started. Tandleman on the other hand seems to take a positive view of the ban.
Recently Mudgie, as he seems to have affectionately been called, takes a sentimental view of what the smoking ban has done to a number of pubs. Prompted by this Tandy bravely starts a poll on the whole subject, with a set of statements out of which we are to choose one. The ensuing comments seem to have caused Tandleman to regret having opened the subject. Many of the comments are forthright to say the least. I'd be bothered if it were my blog and I do feel a little sorry for Tandleman.
When the ban came in I was a smoker. However, my pub was not dominated by smokers and undoubtedly the people who smoked most were myself and my staff. With trade that is more food and accommodation led than wet led it was undoubtedly useful for me to be able to ban smoking altogether. Subsequently I gave up smoking myself, which Ann and I both wanted to happen but realised that would be impossible without completely banning it throughout the building. For me, my relationship, my family and my business, I am glad of the ban.
But, and there are lots of big buts, I don't agree with a blanket ban. Civil liberties and the effect on sectors of our traditional pub industry make it unacceptable and draconian in my opinion. I'll try and expand on these thoughts by giving my opinion to each of the questions offered by Tandleman. I've included the numbers on the poll, as of today, as I think they are illuminating.
Should never have been introduced and should be repealed 41 (29%)
Whilst I think it is inevitable that some form of ban was going to occur, and to expect it to be repealed is a bit of a flight of fancy, the strength of feeling towards this option does indicate a huge amount of bitterness towards the ban. For some sections of society the party in power is never going to be forgiven. For one, I don't think it cuts down by the normal left and right politics either.
Should have been in introduced in a modified form to allow smoking in some areas 26 (18%)
This is my favourite solution but with caveats. Indeed, I never did understand why there was a complete ban. It is now not possible to have a social gathering in any building that is not a private residence, if my understanding of the law is correct, where smoking is permitted. We are not permitted any form of regulated smoking in any enclosed public space whatsoever. Not even a private members club.
I will admit though, that if we'd have been permitted this option in my pub, we might well have tried to find a solution. I've talked before about the problems of segregating rooms in a pub and during that discussion I came in for criticism. I'll be honest and say I'm pleased now that I don't need to do so for smokers. As the comments on Tandleman's blog illustrate, to ban a smoker from smoking takes courage.
Is a progressive and positive thing 39 (28%)
Is it progressive and positive to deny a significant number of people from engaging in an activity that they enjoy and has formed a key part of socialising for centenaries? A large number of respondents think so. In fact I'm sure statistics would say that the minor difference between the numbers voting for this and the ones voting for the first statement are insignificant. I think this shows how divisive the subject still is.
Is regrettable, but inevitable and we should accept it and move on 3 (2%)
Well, the law is the law and this is one that is unlikely to change. The anti-tie lot are perhaps just upsetting themselves unduly by fighting anyway. The surprise to me is that very few pick this option, after all it's a middle ground choice. It would seem very few who want to move on see it as regrettable.
Has ruined pubs and changed them for the worse 5 (3%)
This is where I, as somebody who is in the trade, has some sympathy for the anti-ban view. Yes, pubs have changed because of the ban. Some have failed. Certainly I can see Mudgie's view that the atmosphere is different and sometimes not as good. However, changed for the worse, overall? I'm not sure, but the trade is now very different.
Is a dead subject which we shouldn't even be discussing 24 (17%)
I think it's true that the law is unlikely to be repealed or even modified any time soon. I suspect the next government, which is likely not to be Labour, is not going to touch it. Public opinion is strongly in favour, I'd suggest, for leaving it as it is.
I'm not convinced we should not discuss and leave it at that. I think the one thing that the anti-smoking ban people are convincing me of is that restrictions on beer is going to increase as a follow-on. Our ability to enjoy ourselves will be further inhibited for our own good. Boxing will get banned, for your own good, rugby will too, for goodness sake, people get hurt playing that game, it's barbaric.
How long will it be before our ID card has to be swiped when we purchase a drink at the bar, just to ensure we have not had too many already? We need to keep the smoking ban in mind if for no other reason that to make us realise that there will be more pleasures under attack. It'll never happen? They said that about the smoking ban.
I'm glad Tandleman opened the subject. The strength of feeling shown in the comments from one section of society shows the creation of a grossly upset minority. As a publican I also get the same feelings discussed by people here, and I don't feel they are just a few radical extreme right wing activists. In an age where we take people from all over the world and embrace their diverse cultures I feel it is extremely dangerous to alienate something that used to be an inherent part of ours.
I wish to apologise to Washy. He's one of my best and most loyal customers and a friend. He's a smoker and wishes he could still smoke in my pub. I also know he reads this blog frequently.