The smoking ban: nice, but it’s gone too far

In that post I wrote about blogging a couple of weeks ago I said that I’d never gone out and investigated anything in my life. Well I’ve turned over a new leaf because that all changed today. To investigate the effects of the smoking ban I went to the pub. Of course, I could have gone to the pub on Sunday, but I couldn’t even be arsed to do that.

Anyway, I’ve never quite been able to make my mind up about this smoking ban. For purely selfish reasons, of course, I couldn’t wait for this smoking ban to go ahead. Too often it simply isn’t worth going out if you’re going to spend the rest of the day stinking of smoke. I will probably end up going down the pub more — I’ve already accepted one invitation that I probably wouldn’t have prior to Sunday. So instead of being on the fags I’ll be on the booze.

I’m pretty sure most people are in favour of the ban. I saw Jack McConnell on the television the other day going on about how young people in particular are heavily in favour of the ban. For once, I think he’s right. Maybe it’s just because I mainly associate with student lefties, but I can only think of one person who I’ve met in the flesh who was against the ban.

As a generation, we youngsters have had it hammered home to us pretty relentlessly. And not just by the government. Smoking family friends and relatives warn you never to start. Meanwhile, parents would disown you if you did. We know, we know: smoking will make you die horribly and slowly and those people who make you breathe in their second-hand smoke are absolute bastards.

There is just a feeling of inevitability about it all. The tide is very much against the smoking industry, and nobody is even attempting to turn the tide back in the other direction any more. Smoking in adverts is gone, smoking adverts themselves are gone, smoking in public places and workplaces is gone. And most people (particularly young people) seem pretty ambivalent about it. A friend told me he was half-expecting to see people smoking five at a time, but when I was out on Saturday I didn’t see any evidence of last-minute pre-ban defiance. It all felt very normal, in fact, as if the collective response was just, “Yeah, smoking ends tomorrow. Big deal.”

Given all this, though, I’m surprised the government even needs to step in. If there’s such a high demand for smoke-free environments, why aren’t employers and pub managers prohibiting smoking themselves? I heard that smoke-free pubs existed prior to the ban, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell you where. I’d be amazed if there were any in Kirkcaldy, although I heard that there were three in Edinburgh (still not a lot though when you consider how many pubs there must be in Edinburgh).

I guess businessmen are just really risk-averse and are afraid to be the first to make that kind of decision. Just look at how all the broadsheets have turned to tabloid one-by-one. They’ve been banging on for as long as I can remember about how going tabloid will increase the number of readers because broadsheets are bloody ridiculous and give everybody a sore back. Yet none of the broadsheets made the switch, until a couple of years ago when The Independent had no other choice than to take a risk. Surprise surprise, more people began to read the Indy and then almost everybody else followed suit soon afterwards. See? It wasn’t so hard after all.

Anyway, back to the pub. There was the predicted huddle of smokers standing at the doorway, despite the fact that it was absolutely pissing it down today, but only at one of the four times I found myself passing through the door. It wasn’t the most pleasent tunnel I’ve ever been through, but it was a hell of a lot better than contending with a foggy pub for the entire duration of your visit.

Was the smoke cloaking other smells for all those years? The jury is out. It didn’t feel weird when I first walked in — everybody did turn round and stare at me and the pub did still smell like a pub. I reckoned the new carpet played a part in that smell, though some said it just smelled like stale beer. At our particular corner it smelled of old man and old man urine. Nice. I might have marginally preferred the smoke in that instance. But back home, and you wouldn’t have known I was in a pub because my clothes didn’t stink of smoke, so that is a major plus point.

All-in-all, I have personally enjoyed the new improved smoke-free Scotland. But I think the ban has gone too far. For instance, The Devil’s Kitchen has had a couple of posts detailing how our favourite television characters will no longer be able to light up. And according to The Sunday Times, “Even a request to permit herbal cigarettes has been rejected.” Isn’t that going a bit too far?

Will Howells also wrote about the regulations that businesses now face. There I wrote a comment about my experience at the train station.

…when I used the toilet at Waverley Station recently it was clear that somebody had just been smoking in it. It’s like high school or something. My clothes stank for the rest of the day.

I wonder if the smoking ban is merely going to lead people to smoke in public places secretly rather than stop smoking in public places altogether…

Maybe I’m missing something really obvious here, but I would have preferred a licensing system. If you have to have a license to sell alcohol, why not have a licensing system to give people the choice of both smoking and non-smoking pubs?

One last thing about my trip to the pub. I thought I was given a counterfeit fiver in my change. But then I realised that it was a Jack Nicklaus fiver! I’m surprised any of these are still in circulation.

Jack Nicklaus fiver

When David Farrer wrote about them when they were first issued they were going at £102+. They mostly still seem to be going for more than £5. Although if I were to use this note to pay for something it would only be worth a fiver. And it made up £5 of my change. If I think about this much more my head will probably detatch itself and walk off Beachy Head.


  1. I heard that smoke-free pubs existed prior to the ban, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell you where.

    The White Hart in the Grassmarket was one. I was there last year and it smelled of stale beer, i.e. vomit. Perhaps they have changed the carpet since then.


  2. I bumped into the Kirkcaldy Convention for whom the Smoking Ban Does Not Apply at the railway station yesterday, and I’d guess that they were all in their early 20s; so replace ‘youngsters’ with ‘people with even half a brain’.

  3. Eventually a ban will start up in Wales (probably by the end of this year/early 2007) so it’s interesting to hear the reaction to the ban north of the border. Here it seems that the ban has been driven by the politicians – the Welsh Assembly in particular is very keen on it – and just as in Scotland the public reaction seems to be a shrug, coupled with “Hey, OK.”

    The interesting thing is that such a ban couldn’t have been contemplated as recently as a couple of years ago, but now it’s seen as a fait accompli.

  4. I am a smoker and I live in the most smoke adverse society on the planet but I don’t have a problem with smoking bans. The state I live in, Maine, introduced a ban in pubs and restaurants about 3 years ago; I was iffy about it until I went out for a drink in a smoke free boozer. I was instantly converted. The place may have smelled like stale beer rather than stale smoke, but as long as I stayed vertical that smell was unlikely to attach itself to my clothes. If I wanted a smoke, I could step out into the garden; January in Maine is a month of deep negative temperatures, but the pub had provided a nice little propane heater for the smokers. The next moring my head ached a little but my eyes didn’t sting and my throat didn’t burn. As for a restaurant ban, I mean come on- people are eating! Show some manners; even without a ban, don’t smoke around other’s grub. One can yammer on about freedom all one wants but JS Mill pointed out that freedoms can only truly be considered so if they don’t have a hugely negative impact on others.

    As for the stale beer smell, who thought absorbent carpeting was a good idea for a pub in the first place?

  5. Really good and thoughtful piece there. You may want to lock horns with a mate of mine who runs

    I’m not quite as vehement as he is (another of my mates is a reactionary ‘social’ smoker), but, as a gay man, have had to suffer much more obligatory exposure in my years. I’ve yet to visit any ‘pink place’ since Sunday but will be next weekend when it will be beautifully surreal!

  6. People forgot to mention the adverse effect its having on pub buisness. Since the ban, “local” pubs (not clubs or franchises) have had a hige drop of 11% in their buisness due to this ban. These are owned by usually couples who work there full time, maybe with the occasional part timer, they would have to be fired and one of the couple will have to get another job PLUS work full time in the bar. I know this because i used to be a part timer (before the ban) and they were non smoking. The lack of buisness meant we all had to work full time, and one of the owners had 2 jobs. Put 2 and 2 together, people will drink where they can smoke, at home…

    Also, i can’t stand walking down the street anymore with roudy drunks standing outside flinging abuse at me, due to the fact they have to go outside…

    Way to go “democratic” scotland…

  7. It just amazes me that the goverment waited for so long before doing anything constructive as to ban smoking in public places. Of course the Big Tobacco companies needed to make their vast profits first and establish a new customer base in the third world countries. Millions of people worldwide have stopped smoking and at last it is considered, “uncool” to smoke amongst young people. Thank goodness. I saw this really scary movie the other day at,
    click on the movie button. It is free and available to all but be warned, it is a little harsh.