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Scottish pubs under threat from smoking ban

22 March, 2007

A year on from the smoking ban the SLTA brands claims it would be good for trade as "clearly wrong"

Pubs in Scotland are under threat a year on from the smoking ban, says the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

The claims that a smoking ban would be good for pubs in Scotland were “clearly wrong” according to a new report from the SLTA

Its report “The Impact of the Smoking Ban: One Year on" claims that drinks sales are down 11 per cent and food sales are down 3 per cent.

The report was based on responses from 530 of its members, including pubs, hotels, restaurants, private members' clubs and nightclubs - although half of the replies came from pubs.

The trade association claims that for the great majority of licensees the ban has meant a lost trade from their regulars with 56 per cent more licensees reporting fewer visits.

“As business turned down so members looked to cut their costs by laying off staff,” said the report.

The survey says 34 per cent of licensees have been forced to lay off staff with only three per cent reporting they had hired new staff. Almost half of licensees sought to invest in outside areas but many claim local authorities were of little help – two-thirds rated them as “not at all helpful”.

The SLTA says that while licensees are looking to turn their businesses around they are being hampered by the slow bureaucracy of local government.

Paul Waterson chief executive of SLTA, said: “The Scottish licensed trade was collateral damage in a war between the Scottish Executive and the Tobacco Industry

“Our businesses were hit although we were innocent bystanders. We were never properly and fairly consulted on the ban, and our warnings were ignored – now we have to live with the consequences of losing loyal workers and pubs being under threat.

“What really concerned us is that national and local government have been so totally unhelpful. We were given the regulations on how to set up smoking facilities absurdly late, and now four in five of our members find their local authorities no help at all as they try to create covered outside areas to enable their busiaesses to survive.”

“This whole sorry episode was completely avoidable but the Executive was so keen to jump on the Irish bandwagon that they didn’t want to listen to any advice. Maybe this measure will be “the largest single step to improve health for generations” as Jack McConnell claimed - but the deafening silence on tobacco sales and the number of people giving up suggests that the Executive hit us and not their intended target.”

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Readers' comments

  • James 4 April, 2007, 17:08

    I don't think the EU is likely to over turn the ban, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all smoke free. Sweden, New York, California, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Bhutan are as well. Do I see a world wide pattern developing here? People shout about Human Rights, but surely if the majority don't smoke, you have a Right to expect a non-smoking environment in places where the public (or sections of the public) can go. If it worked for theatres, planes, trains, cinemas and restaurants, why can't it work for clubs, pubs, cafes and everywhere else?

  • Neil Donald 3 April, 2007, 12:47

    I cannot wait untill the ban is implemented in England and the whole of the UK is smoke free. It is an absolute delight to go into a pub in Sctland and not have to breathe in the foul smelling Reek. I have even more contempt for the cigar smoking minority.

  • Geoff Kenney 3 April, 2007, 11:19

    Is there any other "Authority" out there that wishes to heap more bad news on the local Publican! They are like Committee men in the Working Mens' Club,( before they were made to close), "Road sweepers by day-businessmen by night. The smoking ban is going to kill the industry. Who cares? The Authorities don't! They are trying their hardest to close us all down. Does any other Council, (with the help of the Police), send in an underage person to a pub with a fiver to see if they can be served with alcohol? Isn't this Entrapment? So, will they do the same with smoking? Publicans are already responsible for too much, we must be responsible for EVERYONE on our premises, and if they cause trouble it is our fault even if they haven't even had a drink in the place. I have had enough of this industry, we cannot win. And there is no authority out there that gives a monkeys.

  • Thomas Laprade 30 March, 2007, 05:45

    The dept. of health conned the politicians into passing no-smoking legislation. The politicians know that 80% of the adults don't smoke and that is where the votes are. It is not about health and it never was about health. It is all about de-normalizing smoking. Passing no-smoking laws is a big step in that direction, unfortunately the hospitality industry is caught in the cross-fire.

  • Lee Homan 26 March, 2007, 00:33

    I am a Publican and have been so on and off for the significant majority of the last 27 years. I am not one of the old school "dinosaurs" with red nose, gout and a penchant for saying "sun over the yard arm! time for a drink" and bugger my kidneys. I am an intelligent adult and know first hand that the product We all sell is drug and potent one at that. It is a mood altering, behaviour changing and potentially lethal. Moreover, alcohol causes more damage to society than smoking. Many more people suffer harm and hardship in life due to alcohol addiction, violence, ill health and financially than is caused by smoking. Death by accident, injury or the lack of self protection with which alcohol imbues some people OFTEN has dire consequences to those that never partake as they become victims to the effects alcohol has on some folk. Will because of its inherent risks, at some time in the future (5, 10, 20 years) alcohol be prohibited in the way smoking has become? How long before the financial and social cost to society and those that deal with its effects, such as the Police and NHS, becomes such that any drinking of Alcohol becomes unreasonable? Fanciful? - Possibly. Reasonable? - As judged by whom? Likely? - What do You think? Raise a Glass Now (as long as you won't exceed unit gudelines) to the Great British Pub, while you still can.

  • Helen Burgess 25 March, 2007, 17:25

    so much doom & gloom? I welcome a no smoking world. my pub is already nearly half no smoking. i will no longer smell of stale tobacco and have my eyes streaming on a friday night. if you run a good pub your customers will still come. if that is not the case then you are already beat. the same was said about cinema's many years ago. all they did was adapt their businesses to suit the new environment. lets bring our pubs forward and make them part of a new healthier culture.

  • kathy clark 25 March, 2007, 16:07

    I was new to the pub trade when I started 3 years ago and it has been a struggle to keep going, the utilities bills have increased 200, fold cost of beer has risen, rates have gone up and the rent on the premises. Its all well and good saying prepare for the ban, but it cost money and in some instances lots of money, where is this to come from?, because we are getting no help from the government, to implement a ban the majority of pub users didnt want. I don't believe non smokers will suddenly decide to go to pubs now, if they wanted to go before they would have, irrespective of the smoke.

  • Gillian Wray 23 March, 2007, 11:03

    Well I sincerely hope that the local councils (planning, licensing & environmental health departments) in England are substantially more helpful to the licensed trade than they have been in Scotland - under Scottish Executive directive. Just over one year before the ban in Scotland I was told by the environmental dept to replace the smoke extractor units in our bar as the old ones (which we had inherited when we bought the bar 18 months prior to the ban and by the way we were not informed by anyone of the impending ban). The new units cost a few thousand pounds and then they told us to upgrade the air filter system, which was getting on for another 1k. These would form part of the licensing applications. So we had no alternative but to go along with that, despite having segregated smoking/no-smoking areas which were clearly designated.Then we had the smoking ban, so these smoke extractor units become obsolete, we don't get any sort of refund from the Scottish Executive and when I phoned them to complain they told me to put them on ebay! Anyway, back to dealing with the smokers and taking their drinks outside when they go for a smoke, luckily having grounds outside, we decided to apply for a beer garden. We started by engaging an architectural technician who gave us plans of the grass with a few chairs & tables on it, and these pans were submitted to the council. We had a visit from the highways department to assess how traffic coming into the car park would cause a hazard from pedestrians getting off the local bus(?), but happily the plans were agreed and then submitted to the licensing board, where they were rejected. Despite the cost and every household in the area being given the opportunity to raise objections (which they didn't), plus the notices being put on lamposts etc and adverts in the newspapers. The reason was that the plans were wrong as they didn't include the entire premises. So we went back to the architectural technicians for another 19 copies showing the west, east elevation etc and these were re-submitted. We then had an interview with a police inspector and a visit from the whole licensing board. We then went with our solicitor before the board and we are now pleased to announce that we have a beer garden to smoke in which is licensed and last summer it was just brilliant. But after all that expense we don't have the spare cash to spend on a smoking shelter so in the winter time customers who go outside to smoke just huddle together round the ashtrays (which aren't free either). If anyone wants to have a try at doing what we've done, then good luck to them, it was expensive and time consuming but actually having a smoking area beer garden is worth it's weight in gold - provided that the weather is ok.

  • BRENDA ROWE 22 March, 2007, 22:11

    As a pub landlady, along with my sister, I feel our human rights have been taken away. Publicans should of had a choice, smoking pub or food pub. I suggest we go in to the prisons and tell the inmates that from the 1st of july they can,t smoke and see the outcome. RIOTS

  • JR 22 March, 2007, 20:59

    My advice is to keep complaining...loudly and often. Have a look at the so-called "mountains" of evidence that SHS is a health hazard for yourselves, and note that even by torturing the science to within an inch of its life (and many times even beyond that), you won't find a risk ratio higher than 2.0 for the majority of these studies. It actually wouldn't be so bad if you were simply the collateral damage done by foolish could eventually educate such types. Unfortunately, your plight is the work of crafty, greedy politicians and their compatriots in the pharmaceutical industry. Do the research, follow the money, then share the facts with everyone you can. It's only by revealing the lies about SHS and the unholy alliances between government and industry that you can hope to get your lives back. Being circumspect and polite is exactly what your opponents expect of you. Surprise them with the truth.

  • Martin 22 March, 2007, 20:54

    Unfortunately most of the people that are replying to this are not living in the 'real world'. The real world is a place where smoking will become increasingly difficult to do outside a person's own home. If you read scientific journals (see: What's your poison? in the 12 February 2007 edition of New Scientist) you will realise that there is emerging evidence which will show the mechanism by which smoking and passive smoking is a serious health hazard. What is more it will also show that smoking AND drinking just multiply these bad effects. Every employee has the right to reasonable protection when they are working (and that includes bar staff). This IS the real world. Get used to it and move on and that way you might be able to run a successful business in the 'real world'.

  • 22 March, 2007, 20:13

    So many comments! I have been fortunate in only seeing a small downturn in my businesses, machine income has been hit though. When you are the only no smoking pub in the area, fine but what will happen when you loose your unique selling point? As to the gentleman who said it was a lack of action I would tell him that prior to the ban I not only had an in-house campaign created by myself and a fellow publican to raise awareness but tried to get permission for canopies and was turned down. None of my premises have an area we could have created into a smoking area as they are land locked. Some have been lucky and did create one of which many totally contravene the regulations on 50% being exposed. The authorities seem totally happy to allow these people to gain an advantage and are not enforcing the rules. Your final insult will be when you stand at the side of the road and watch council workers puffing away in their council vans whilst the council are swanning throught your pubs threatening you if your signage is wrong. A councillor in a Scottish council was let off for smoking several cigarettes in front of the press in his office and the councils smoke police did not fine themselves. I am a non-smoker and enjoy the smoke free atmosphere but when your turn comes and the stampede of new customers promised by your government does not come I can only pray that you are not one of those poor souls who dies the slow death of economic murder. For their will be no help from government to save you.

  • Michael L 22 March, 2007, 20:07

    As an ex licencee (1982-2002) who smokes and drinks I find the whole smoking ban rather ludicrious. I thought for the 1st time in my life to write to my MP who merely said the equivalent of it's all debated and going to happen. So for a person who has contributed to the well being of the country by smoking for 35 years, paying income tax for the same length of time and also NI contributions I'd like to know what I got in return. Heck, not even a 2nd thought. Another view is that I'm lumbered with a decision I had no say in, still have no 100% evidential proof of what smoking does (as in kill!) and looks that my frequent visits to the pub will become drinking at home. Somehow this rings of the government with it's 'out of touch' advisors and dogooders representing themselves as 'life angels'. In fact they are IMHO simply faceless ignorant idiots who'd be better involved with viewing the whole picture rather than their own interests.

  • duncan lawton 22 March, 2007, 17:57

    Could we not ban non-smokers?? No to be serious we run a small rural pub we do not employ staff or do food,we are are a real ale pub and 95% of our customers smoke or do not object to smokers and i thought we lived in a democracy? I do not want to turn our little place into a glorified chip shop or greasy spoon ,leave that to the big nationals who have done their best to destroy the "local" now the government wants to kill the fatted calf,just think when we are gone who will fill the coffers?

  • Alan Canvess 22 March, 2007, 17:23

    I am not a licensee, but I am a regular pub user and chairman of the Hull & East Yorkshire branch of CAMRA. For a long time prior to the government legislation being decided CAMRA supported the idea that where a seperate 'smoking room' existed smoking should still be allowed and not be banned altogether. Unfortuntely most of the seperate rooms that once existed had been removed by the breweries and pub groups over a period of time without any consultation with the customers that used them. Perhaps if they hadn't, the forthcoming smoking ban might not have been necessesary? Personally I welcome the smoking ban and it will certainly make my visit to the pub a more enjoyable experience. Approximately 70% of the population do not smoke and a sizeable amount of them do not presently use public houses becuse of the atmosphere and the smell left on their clothes. Many of them will have got out of the habit of visiting the pub over the years and it will take time and effort to tempt them back. Those licensees, like Jacqueline Paphantis, that see the smoking ban as an opportunity to increase business, and react positively, will deservedly see their business grow. Those that don't will not -and why should they?

  • colete mackness 22 March, 2007, 16:51

    No surprise really. I think most licencees of real pubs fear the worse. The bistro pubs will be the least hit. It is the traditional pub when the guy stops in for a drink, to meet with his riends and have a cigarette, before going home. We are a seasonal pub with from end March to end August a large customer base of polo grooms, 90% spanish speaking and 90% who smoke. My signs will also have to be in spanish and I have already tried to explain to the early arrivals what will happen. I run the risk of losing my main annual business. I have applied for permission for an outside area and am waiting to see what happens there. My main problem will be noise control. The people who think up these schemes do not live in the real world but some sort of idealistic paradise where problems do not exist and where everybody who smokes will give up and all of a sudden those who do not smoke will suddenly visit pubs. I am at the stage of seriously thinking of giving up on this trade and indeed this country. There is no room here anymore for individuals, we are all expected to fit the ideal norm - how boring and how stalanist.

  • Stan Chase 22 March, 2007, 16:30

    If non-smoking pubs were popular they would already exist in numbers. They clearly do NOT, an are therefore NOT popular. The fact is that the majority of committed pub drinkers are smokers. They will still go to pubs, but will increasingly do other things, like parties and barbecues just like they do in the States. That is cheaper for them, and they can do what they want (smoke). The pub will need to change drastically to survive this ban, and change their offerings to appeal to the non-smoker.

  • d smithers 22 March, 2007, 15:45

    This whole Fiasco is another example of the government and local councils not having a clue about the real world. Since 1998 my pub has seen a decrease in food trade by 90% because the workers from the local factories are not allowed to go to the pub at dinner time, my alcohol sales have slumped by around 60% and now I am expected to kick my regulars out into the cold because they smoke! There will not be anyone left inside! This suggests to me that serious Business Rates Reductions should be allowed to all pubs, as the trade has been hit harder than any other business by red tape created by bored civil servants, MP's and councillors. when the money stops coming in, they will stop making life so difficult for us! i am putting my appeal in today! you should all do the same, do not forget to mention how much building a smoking area is going to cost you!

  • Jacqueline Paphitis Fellow MBII 22 March, 2007, 15:11

    Hello, Having been in licenced trade for more than 25 years and finally settling in Oxford with a Greene King tenancy. The trade predominantly at our bar is tourists, students, passing trade and some local trade. We have been in this particular tenancy for four years now. It was one year ago February 2006 (irrespective of the commons decision) that we went non smoking bar. We were actually the first one in Oxford to go non smoking. This was not an overnight decision but a carefully planned operation. Over the six months prior to the decision our plans were put into place, asking the customers what they thought of a non smoking bar. Customer care questionnaires throughout the bar. Organising non smoking days to test the situation. Offering discount cards to the local drinking trade. We looked at our business very carefully. Would our food sales be increased? Where would our future trade come from? We leaflet dropped the city centre three months before the proposed ban informing customers of our new smoke free environment which would be happening in February with a new menu offering more choice of hot and cold drinks, smoothies, cappuccino healthy food options. We did a further leaflet drop two weeks before the ban setting the date. Greene King supported us by re-decorating and recovering floors to give the bar a sparkle. We closed for a few days and re-opened with new signage offering a smoke free environment. It was the best decision we could have made. Yes we did lose a lot of the drinking trade. Barrellage down by 30. We understand that some drinkers do want to smoke, it's part of their habit and culture. And the staff, what did they think. "Great my clothes and hair don't smell anymore". "My skin feels much better". The outcome is that we did gain a new trade, a lot more females were visiting drinking teas, coffees, a lot more of the tourists all spending on high gp items. What we did notice is that they spent more time with us. As we have now completed our first year we were of course curious to see the 'bottom line'. Amazingly only 2.5% difference. A great price to pay for a more comfortable cleaner environment. You know competition is fierce and you cannot just sit back and expect it to happen. There are so many other ways now to gain business. By the way we do have a quad garden and for the past year has been a non smoking garden as in the summer its busy with diners. This particular decision suited this outlet and we do not regret it one bit. We now offer a take-away service. The bar can be hired for functions. Business meetings, we also now offer our services as a training house. One bar in this area is offering Wi-fi to attract business people. Another operates a bar for events within the town hall. These new business concepts adds to the value of the business. Yes It's not ideal for everyone but come on all you licencees out there, you have to look 'outside the box' and take some risks with your business. I love this trade and would not want to do anything else but I would never become complacent and am constantly watching the market for new opportunities. All I can say to all licencees worried about the effect of 1 July is plan ahead and do your homework quickly or you will miss out on some great business opportunties. Good luck.

  • Tony Collins 22 March, 2007, 14:56

    I am not a publican, merely an occasional user of pubs for social and eating purposes. It's hardly rocket science to unerstand that insulting and ostracising a quarter of the population is going to be bad for business. Visiting a pub is not compulsory, so why should I willingly subject myself to such insult? All this to satisfy the tiny minority of diehard fanatics with nothing more inspiring to do with their lives than to control others' lifestyles.

  • Peter Beau Leigh 22 March, 2007, 14:27

    I am from Guernsey where we have had the ban for nearly a year. Our goverment were very slow to tell us what we would be allowed outside and even slower to pass applications. It has been disastrous for the trade. Pubs have closed and the politican who initially bought the ban in says how wonderful it is working. How would he know as he daren't go into a working mans pub on the island as he would not be welcome. Non smokers do not use the pubs any more than they did before and most sit outside in summer with the smokers as there is noone inside. One other downside is the staff spend more time outside whilst being paid for their right to a cigarette break. Whilst the non smoking staff have to carry on working. The answer is only employ non smoking staff. ENGLAND BEWARE! It hurts your trade.

  • Charlie Smith 22 March, 2007, 14:02

    Rob says "On top of this, to complain that councils were unhelpful, and didn't publish guidelines until very late is a poor excuse for poor preperation and short sightendess, coupled with a rigid and unchangeable approach to the business". What he doesn't appreciate is that it was impossible to prepare for something when the guidelines were not set. Many businesses were crying out for guidance on what they had to do to establish outside areas for smokers but the local planning authorities didn't want to know; applications took months to go through, well after the ban had come in, and worse, many of them rejected pubs proposals out of hand without advising on alternatives. Paul Waterson is entirely correct when he says the licensed trade has been collateral damage in the Scottish Executive's war against smoking. The impact in England may not be as bad, you will have learned from our experience. But do you recall how your local authoriries struggled to implement the Licensing Act 2003? What makes you think they will be any better in response to the smoking ban?

  • Rachel Macniven 22 March, 2007, 13:53

    I manage a locals pub in the south of England and know already the smoking ban is going to affect my trade, 98% of my customers smoke some only come out to have a drink & a smoke & their views are now going towards the fact that it is going to be cheaper and easier to buy alcohol from our local supermarkets and spend more time at home. I worry this is going to send the drinking culture into their own homes where this could cause alot more problems with home life. There will be no limits to what you can drink, this could turn into a huge problem with alcohol addiction which effects and destroys so many peoples lives every year. People will start getting into the habit of drinking more often indoors instead of maybe a couple of nights at the weekend. I feel people should have the choice, yes non smokers should be able to go out and enjoy a meal, drink, night out smoke free but then so should smokers have the choice.

  • Aaron Comber 22 March, 2007, 13:44

    I find it extremely sad in this modern day, that people and small businesses are not consulted over such major decisions. In a society run by politically correct extremists determined to create a blanket nanny state where public opinion does not count, this is a disgrace to sentient beings, especially business people everywhere. They say that staff and customers should have a choice to work, drink or eat in a healthy environment, i agree, but the choice should have been given to the industry to choose to be smoking or non-smoking businesses and then clearly advertise outside their establishments. Staff and customers would then have a choice whether to work in or visit the premises, or not. The people in power now, and over the last few years, treat us like children and are quite frankly, a disgrace to the office they hold. And they wonder why small businesses are constantly going under and people are leaving this country at a rate of 300,000+ a year and growing. I am currently disgusted and embarrassed to live in this country, a country i used to be proud of. Aaron Comber Chequer Inn Steyning West Sussex

  • Alan Drake 22 March, 2007, 13:08

    I went on a trip to Edinburgh a few months ago and as I'm a publican from Northants thought it would be a good opportunity to see what the Scots had done and get a few ideas on what to put in place in my pub when the ban comes into force. From what I could see they had done nothing, apart from rope a small area off outside the bars and stick a free standing ash tray, no shelter, no brollys, nothing, if you wanted to smoke you had to stand outside in the rain and the cold wind and suffer. So as far as I'm concerned they have brough it upon themselves. Unlike the Scots we have had more than enough time to implicate some measures to ensure it has a minimum effect on our buisness, I am a smoker and am not entirly happy with this ban but there is no escaping it, so deal with it!

  • Rob Neil 22 March, 2007, 12:52

    I am amazed that so many people are complaining about lost sales due to the smoking ban. I am a smoker myself, and disagree with the ban as it is aimed at people who are over 18, on the whole, and should be able to make their own decisions regarding smoking. As for saying that it is in place to protect non-smoking workers, surely a better solution would be to advise potential staff at the interview stage that there is likely to be an atmosphere of smoke in the place if it is smoking, and let them decide. But to blame local and national councils for a loss in trade, to me, stinks of laziness. The ban shouldn't have come as a surprise, and if there are busniesses out there who have suffered a loss of trade, then they can only blame themselves for not putting into place plans to deal with the inevitable loss of drinkers. On top of this, to complain that councils were unhelpful, and didn't publish guidelines until very late is a poor excuse for poor preperation and short sightendess, coupled with a rigid and unchangeable approach to the business. How many of these businesses tried to increase the food offer in order to bring new custom to combat the drop due to the smoking ban? How many applied for a children's license in order to attract families? I'm not wholly unforgiving mind, and think that it is terrible that so many businesses have lost money due to a badly thought out, knee jerk reaction, publicity grabbing Whitehall stunt. Much hope goes out to those who have suffered, and I sincerely hope that you find a way of making back your trade.

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