Pubs suffering in “Scotland the Smoke-free”

The countdown is on for state-wide smoking ban in Minnesota with competing prophecies of gloom and doom vs. fresh air and sunshine on what will happen. It is worth noting what actually has happened elsewhere.

A nationwide smoking ban in pubs and restaurants went into effect in Scotland in late March of 2006, with many of the same arguments on both sides that we’ve become familiar with here in Minnesota. Shortly after the ban went into affect the Cancer Research UK poll released results confidently predicting that Scottish pubs would benefit from the ban, citing poll results showing that 25% of those surveyed said they’d be more likely to visit a pub because of the ban. The poll also found that 10% said they’d be less likely to go to a pub.

That 10% figure is especially interesting when you read this article:

The smoking ban in Scotland has seen a 10% decrease in sales and a 14% fall in customers in pubs, according to a new study.

The study carried out by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association compared sales before and after the ban at 2724 pubs – 1590 in Scotland and 1134 in northern England – where smoking is still permitted.

The study’s authors say this is the first major look at the smoking ban outside of the US – where trade has remained fairly constant.

The report says: “These studies have mostly found no negative economic effects of such legislation on the hospitality sector in the long run.

“However, differences in the social use of public houses in Great Britain in comparison with the US may lead to different findings.”

“Our study suggests that the Scottish smoking ban had a negative economic impact on public houses … due in part to a drop in the number of customers.

“The short-term impact of the ban did not lead to more customers coming into pubs due to the smoke-free atmosphere, and presumably did not lead smokers to spend more money on drink or food instead of smoking.”

The study backs anecdotal evidence from licensees north of the border.

While the study makes a reference to similar bans in the U.S. having little affect on the bar and restaurant trade — an assertion that bears further scrutiny — it appears that the International Epidemiological Association must also acknowledge the statistics showing that harm has been done. In fact, if anyone is clearly benefitting from the ban it is the people hired — at tax-payer expense — to enforce the ban, as reported here:

A survey has found that some of Scotland’s smoke ban enforcers are seriously under-employed with some councils’ officers NEVER having issued a ticket.

An investigation by Scotland on Sunday found seven councils, between them employing at least 11 full-time enforcers, have failed to issue a single penalty ticket or warning since they began work in March.

It is estimated that the salary bill for these officers is around £220,000.

Councils say there is more to the job than handing out fines, however Stewart Maxwell, the MSP who brought the original bill before the Scottish parliament said: “I always thought it would be self-policing. From the start I didn’t think that it would be necessary to employ so many enforcement officers.

“A lot of them were certainly doing a lot of work when the ban was brought in, including distributing posters, but I don’t know whether this is still the case.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the money could be better spent compensating badly hit rural pubs.

It appears that an addiction to bureaucracy is even harder to stamp out than a craving for nicotine. Actually, I know of many people who have been able to quit smoking, but I haven’t heard of any government jobs being reduced. Has anyone ever tried to develop a “Bureaucracy Patch”?

Of course, why worry about livelihoods when lives are at stake? Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr responded angrily to the survey results, saying “There’s a brutal answer to that. This is about public health, it’s about saving lives – it’s not about businesses.” I’ll bet newly unemployed Scottish pub and restaurant workers are already lining up to apply for jobs as government fat inspectors (fat in food, not government, of course) in anticipation of the next ban.

2 thoughts on “Pubs suffering in “Scotland the Smoke-free”

  1. Night Writer —

    When I was a young boy, I had a Scottish nanny.

    Pity that as robust a people as the Scots have traveled farther in embracing the nanny state.

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