Wednesday, 31 May 2017

False memory syndrome

To listen to a lot of people, you would imagine that, before 1 July 2007, the interior of English pubs was a wall-to-wall fug of tobacco fumes, and non-smoking provision varied between extremely rare and non-existent. Indeed, in many quarters, this has become the received wisdom. But, in reality, it simply isn’t true.

For a start, my recollection is that pretty much all pubs majoring on food were either predominantly non-smoking in dining areas, or at least had a substantial non-smoking section. Added to this, every single Wetherspoon’s had a non-smoking area, and in some of them Tim Martin had jumped the gun and imposed a complete ban, albeit at the cost of wet sales plummeting.

While less general, non-smoking areas were also far from unknown in pubs of a more wet-led nature. To give three examples familiar to me, the staunchly traditional Griffin in Heaton Mersey had designated one of five rooms as non-smoking, the customers of the Davenport Arms at Woodford had voted to make all of the interior non-smoking apart from the tap room, and the main bar area in the Railway at Heatley (now sadly demolished) was also non-smoking.

In the absence of a time machine, it’s difficult to prove this conclusively. However, we do have a kind of time machine at hand in the shape of the 2007 Good Beer Guide, the last one to be published before the ban. Selecting a few counties gives us, for example:

Cheshire: 73 pubs, 34 (47%) with a non-smoking area
Isle of Wight: 22 pubs, 11 (50%)
East Yorkshire: 43 pubs, 20 (47%)

Now, I’ve got better things to do than trawl through the entire book, but the picture is clear. In most areas, getting on for half of pubs provided a non-smoking area, so if that was important to you it wasn’t too difficult to find one. People made considerably more effort to seek out pubs with real ale in the early 70s. Maybe the GBG isn’t representative of the entire pub stock, but I’d say it goes light on both backstreet boozers and family dining pubs, so overall things balance out.

Clearly it was the case that you were much more likely to find a non-smoking area in a dining section than in one for general drinking. It was often observed that, in wet-led pubs, even when non-smoking areas were provided, they tended to get little use, as most people were in mixed groups including smokers. “Why do I have to use a smoking area to be with my friends?” the cry would go up.

However, it’s hardly very amicable to seek to deny your friends the ability to smoke just because you don’t like it. Friendship surely involves a bit of give and take. If your mates like going to a pub that plays loud rock music, then it’s up to you whether you go with them or not. It’s a classic case of revealed preference – that what people actually choose to do is more important than what they say. And it was quite clear that the vast majority put sociability ahead of avoiding tobacco smoke. At the end of the day, if you weren’t happy with your friends taking you to smoky places, maybe it was time to find some new friends.

The claim is also often heard that having a no-smoking section in a pub is like having a no-pissing section in a swimming pool. However, as Michael J. McFadden demonstrates in his book Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains, the two bear no comparison. “This claim is off by a factor of at least 15,000 air/water changes. In percentage terms, the antismokers are exaggerating by one million, five hundred thousand percent.” It’s loaded language akin to cyclists (both motor and pedal) describing car users as “cagers”, or people referring to isinglass in beer as “fish guts”. If these phrases come out, you know that you’re not going to get a measured, rational argument. And, really, if you think someone smoking thirty feet away is going to do you any harm whatsoever, you are being utterly hysterical.

Despite the claims, it wasn’t generally difficult to find non-smoking provision in pubs before 2007 if that mattered to you. But it seems that self-delusion, if not outright lying, is a defining characteristic of homo antismokerus.

42 comments:

  1. Spot on. Not only were there more and more nonsmoking areas or rooms WHICH WERE OFTEN EMPTY, but ventilation quality was improving by leaps and bounds. I think the antismoking brigade (ASH et al) were terrified of this - it was a free market evolution which would have made them more and more redundant, thus a total ban had to be forced through as aggressively, and as quickly, as possible. The current perception of smoking is pubs as a 'problem' was created by the antismoking lobby, not by smokers. Better ventilation and more choice would have satisfied almost everyone who actually went to pubs, especially if combined with some encouragement of tolerance. Instead we got the opposite: officially-encouraged and enforced zero-tolerance.

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    1. Yes, the antismokers won't have it, but the market was already dealing with the issue. Anyone who disliked smoking but genuinely cared about pubs should have campaigned for more non-smoking provision rather than the disastrous blanket ban.

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    2. The Three Fishes in Shrewsbury was totally non-smoking years before the ban. It was pretty busy. If you wanted to smoke you went to The Loggerheads around the corner. Everybody was happy, which of course is offensive to the New Puritans who want to spread their own special form of misery to the entire populace.

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  2. My local pub had a no smoking bar which was usually empty. It also had (and still has) good air conditioning. There was no problem.

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  3. I don't think it was entirely voluntary.


    Letter to The Publican re. protecting employees from passive smoking
    7th June 1999

    Dear Editor

    Re: smoking in pubs

    It is true that the Health and Safety Executive is developing a new Approved Code of Practice to deal with passive smoking in the workplace (Pubs face new smoking bans, Code is a blow, 7th June 1999). All the ACOP will do is provide meaningful guidance on how the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) should be applied to tobacco smoke in the workplace. This law already exists and has no exemptions for the hospitality industry. The ACOP will clarify the law and help publicans comply with it.

    A new ACOP would not mean that all smoking must be banned in pubs. The heart of the law is that employers have an obligation to do what is reasonably practicableto reduce their employees’ exposure. That could include segregation,ventilation, banning smoking at the bar or other measures. It also means the ‘do nothing and ignore it’ approach is not an option. The best approach for any pub is to wholeheartedly embrace the Charter agreed by the Government and trade bodies such as ALMR and BII and to do what is reasonable and practical to protect their employees. That is good professional business, and it should not be a cause for alarm, despair or resistence.

    Yours sincerely,
    Clive Bates
    https://web.archive.org/web/20131228114052/http://www.ash.org.uk/media-room/press-releases/letter-to-the-publican-re-protecting-employees-from-passive-smoking

    Rose

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  4. I think i must have been going in pubs with my eyes closed,i have visited loads of pubs over the years and the only one that i noticed that banned smoking was the phoenix in the City area of London,i never saw none smoking rooms in other pubs i visited or any of the Wetherspoons.
    I am not an anti smoker though i have never smoked,but it did bug us when having a meal in the White Lion Bramcote and having a dickhead opposite us blowing smoke over us,this was just before the ban came in.
    yes the ban has gone too far like banning it from train station platforms that are open to the air,but in work places and pubs i have to agree with it.
    I know i will be slagged off for this post by the smokers but would you like me to *iss on you every now and again after having a few drinks of beer,i think not.

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    1. Well, as EVERY SINGLE Wetherspoon's had a non-smoking area in the period leading up to the ban, you can't have been looking very hard.

      And a quick perusal of the 2007 GBG for central Nottingham reveals the Cock & Hoop, Kean's Head, Lincolnshire Poacher and Trip to Jerusalem as having non-smoking areas.

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    2. well I certainly went to the Cock & Hoop and Olde Trip before 2007 and I dont remember there being much if any non-smoking areas to those pubs, yeah they may have said you well you cant smoke standing there, and generally they were just standing areas at the bar if my "false memory" isnt failing, but they werent smoke free pubs by any stretch of the imagination, so I dont agree that pubs even nominating a non smoking area is any sign that those pubs were providing a valid choice.

      the one you missed I think was called the Fat Cat (now my memory might be failing on the name) which was the only smoke free bar in Nottingham in that period, and I dont recall it being that popular, though it was more it was trying to be something that wasnt quite a bar, wasnt quite a night club, wasnt quite somewhere to eat.

      whilst I wasnt necessarily against smoking in pubs before the ban, Id be very much against allowing it back in.

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    3. Nobody's saying these were "non smoking pubs". They are pubs shown in the GBG as having a "No smoking room or area", which it defines as "a specially designated smoke free zone".

      And if the law was relaxed, it wouldn't mean smoking in all areas of all pubs - it would mean offering people a choice.

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    4. "would you like me to *iss on you every now and again after having a few drinks of beer,i think not"

      What an utterly ludicrous and frankly offensive comment. It makes the "no pissing section" comparison seem vaguely sensible.

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    5. I'm with Alan, here. I don't remember a non-smoking sections in any of the pubs I drank in before 2007. My then local, a wet-led surburban pub since transfomed into a dining-cum-deli place, was so smoky I used to go there in an old coat and hang it outside to air for a day or so afterwards. Nor do I remember them in food-led pubs, although I do remember several meals where adjacent diners blew their cigarette or cigar smoke over us.

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    6. So you never went in a Wetherspoons in the period leading up to the ban, then?

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    7. Not regularly, no. Their beer quality wasn't as good as it is now iirr.

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    8. "None of the six pubs I regularly went it had non-smoking areas so therefore you're wrong" is not exactly a very convincing argument.

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    9. "would you like me to *iss on you every now and again after having a few drinks of beer,i think not"

      You're correct, which is why I tend to give pub toilets a wide berth and if my bladder does fail me I opt for the use of a cubicle (also more discreet for the consumption of any illicit substances).

      More rewarding to find one's own solutions for inconveniences than relying on heavy handed governmental interference.

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    10. Alan - It's an anagram of anal.

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    11. Ffk Oucf.
      It is not nice to make nasty comments about people who make comments on this blog Viekin

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  5. Maybe the GBG isn’t representative of the entire pub stock, but I’d say it goes light on both backstreet boozers and family dining pubs, so overall things balance out.

    I do not agree with that at all Cheshire had well over 800 pubs with just 73 listed in the GBG not representative at all,the same goes for the Isle of Wight 22 pubs when it must have over 200 and East Yorkshire 43 pubs when there must have been over 500 pubs,not all of these would be family dining pubs as i have done most pubs in Hull and there are not many dining pubs compared to estate and normal pubs.
    Sorry but these figures do not add up at all in my opinion.

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    1. That argument's rather like saying than an opinion poll is invalid because they didn't ask you. We don't *know* that the 73 pubs are a representative sample of those in Cheshire, but neither do we know that they aren't, and that's the best information we've got. And, given that you couldn't remember that every single Wetherspoon's had a non-smoking area, I really wouldn't trust to your memory of Cheshire pubs in general.

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    2. And a quick perusal of the 2007 GBG for central Nottingham reveals the Cock & Hoop, Kean's Head, Lincolnshire Poacher and Trip to Jerusalem as having non-smoking areas.

      You may not trust me on Cheshire pubs and you may be right,i have done well over 300 in the county,but i do know about the Nottingham pubs listed,i would like to bet that the no smoking room in the Trip to Jeruselem was the upstairs room for kids,regarding the Keens Head which is a small single roomed pub,the no smoking area must have been in the kitchen to the rear,not sure that smokers would really want to go in there.
      If some people on here had read my first comments properly they said "i am not an anti smoker and it should not have been banned from outdoor train stations and the like,but i did not like smoke being blown over me when having a meal in the White Lion at Bramcote which is a small pub"
      Regarding Wetherspoons why would i look for a no smoking area when i have never smoked.

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    3. "Regarding Wetherspoons why would i look for a no smoking area when i have never smoked"

      Er, surely the people who would be looking for non-smoking areas are non-smokers?

      And that comment shows that, before the ban, you weren't remotely bothered about avoiding smoke in pubs.

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    4. I did not look for no smoking area in Wetherspoons as i did not know where they were.
      You did not answer about the keens Head a very small single roomed pub with a no smoking area.
      I have never been an anti smoker but some of the comments on this blog may help towards me leaning that way.

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    5. The no smoking areas in Spoons were the bits with bloody great signs saying "No Smoking".

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    6. It also occurs to me that if you were in an unfamiliar pub and needed a leak, would you look for the bog or just sit there and wet yourself?

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  6. "However, it’s hardly very amicable to seek to deny your friends the ability to smoke just because you don’t like it."

    Maybe not, but your original claim was that people were wrong to think they remembered pubs being smoky at all.

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    1. I didn't claim anything of the sort, as you will see if you actually bother to check what I wrote. What I said is that many people suggest that all, or the vast majority, of pubs were smoky. Which is quite simply untrue.

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    2. I think you're blurring "non-smoking areas" and "not smoky". I would say that in the majority of cases, when there were smoking and non-smoking areas, the non-smoking ones were still pretty smoky (in that they - and all your clothes the next morning - still reeked of smoke).

      You're right, that with proper ventilation and air control you can have both - plenty of places in Japan, for example, have *excellent* smoking rooms that you can literally stand outside the door of and not be able to catch a whiff of smoke - but British pubs hardly have a track record for investing in stuff like that.

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    3. Ah, all your clothes reeked of smoke because there was someone smoking fifty feet away. Good to see the old antismoker trope of "after a visit to the pub, you had to incinerate all your clothes and flay off your own skin" making a return.

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    4. Let's just leave it at "I respectfully disagree with your position, as well as your entertaining rephrasing of my point".

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    5. Back in the day before smoking apartheid, I used to drink in a small pub in central Bristol. Some days it was smoky. People, smokers and non-smokers, would remark "Blimey, it's a bit smoky in here today". My point is that this was a rare occasion worthy of comment.

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  7. Back in the late '90s a local I used regularly was a hotel with a restaurant and a small separate bar. The restaurant was completely non-smoking, and in the bar they had mounted on the ceiling some sort of air-scrubbing / ventilation device. When they turned this thing on, even when the bar was full of smokers, you'd hardly know anyone was smoking at all, it was that efficient. And that was, as I say, about twenty years ago. Ventilation technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since then.

    And as for Alan Winfield's comment equating smelling a whiff of tobacco smoke with being pissed on, that's so risible it barely deserves acknowledgement, apart from to say that it's a trite little anti-smoker soundbite that is used over and over again by people who don't have any reasonable argument to support their intolerant attitude.

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  8. Many years ago I worked in Sainsburys. The staff canteen had a smoking room, which was a big glass room with huge fans that sucked the air upwards. I never understood why that sort of arrangement was banned. There was zero risk to anyone who doesn't smoke because you simply didn't go in there.

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    1. It was banned because, had it become widespread, it would have been acceptable to H&S and to all but the most rabid non/anti smokers. We would have reached a stable equilibrium which the the Anti Smoking Industry would have had enormous difficulty disturbing.

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    2. If my memory serves me correctly, some airports in Germany have those glass rooms near the gates. It seems to work well. That is for those of us who do not smoke. My wife was happy to see them.

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    3. They have these fully enclosed, glass rooms at both Munich and Nuremberg airports. My wife was also very happy to see and use them, as even though they are the ultimate in segregation, they keep smokers happy without troubling any one else.

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  9. Regardless of how many nonsmoking rooms there were pre-ban, Curmudgeon's point holds up. Smoking in pubs has been 're-branded' as a 'problem' since 2007, by order of the antismoking lobby - there was no great demand for the ban, thus no great demand for nonsmoking rooms either. I remember a few, but they were often empty because most people wanted to be in the main room of the pub, where all the other people were - smoking or not. You can see the opposite of this now in countries where smoking rooms are allowed: even when they're big and comfortable (though quite often they're not), many smokers just go in for a quick smoke and then go back to 'where the action is'.

    The publican should decide the policy, but IMO ultimately the only answer is to let everyone mix freely in whatever places suit them, let them do whatever they want, and have really good ventilation, which these days is not hard to do. (Speaking of selective amnesia, no one ever mentions the 'smoking islands' that were in several UK airports before 2007; they were not even completely enclosed, just a wall up to about table height which contained technology which simply sucked away all the smoke- tests were done, and there was NO smoke drift).

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    1. Yup, they had those at Copenhagen Airport too and they worked fine.

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    2. You can see the opposite of this now in countries where smoking rooms are allowed: even when they're big and comfortable (though quite often they're not), many smokers just go in for a quick smoke and then go back to 'where the action is'.

      That's odd, because the last time I went to a pub in the UK where there was a comfortable 'smoking terrace', everyone was out on the 'smoking terrace' and the interior of the pub was virtually empty. And it wasn't mid-summer, either - it was quite chilly, albeit with patio heaters deployed in the smoking area.

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  10. I do believe that, prior to the 2007 smoking Apartheid, nearly all pubs did have what one might describe as 'seasonal' non-smoking areas. Available for the majority of the year they were to be found where your typical pub's smoking area is located nowadays.

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  11. This should give the smokers palpitations... http://mobile.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Running-your-pub/Marketing/Leeds-publican-bans-smoking-in-beer-garden-to-get-ahead

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    1. I am one of those "the smokers" and I have no problem with publicans banning smoking anywhere on their own premises. What gives me palpitations is the government banning smoking anywhere , against the wishes publicans and their customers. What you have to remember is that the anti-smoking lobby wants to ban smoking everywhere south of the north pole and they don't give two hoots about how many pubs shut so long as their psychopathic agenda is completed.

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  12. An industry view :
    http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Pub-Food/Food-trends/How-the-pub-trade-has-changed-since-the-2007-smoking-ban

    http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Legal/Health-safety/Your-reactions-to-pro-smoking-group-s-call-to-review-smoking-ban

    FOREST : http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Legal/Health-safety/Pro-smoking-group-calls-for-review-of-smoking-ban-10-years-on
    "The report also claims there are 11,383 fewer pubs in England compared to 2006, a decline of 20.7% since the smoking ban was introduced on 1 July 2007."

    Now talking about having public health as a licensing objective :
    http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Legal/Licensing-law/PHE-publishes-findings-on-public-health-licensing-objective-study

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