Thursday, 9 September 2010

Official In Scotland Too: The smoking ban did it

Press reports abound yesterday and today of the 737 pubs that have closed in Scotland since the smoking ban was implemented on 26 March 2006. For once the story (in the form of a report for the Save our Pubs and Clubs Campaign) says that the smoking ban is to blame for these closures.

Predictably the response has come that the story has much to do with supermarket prices, property prices, changing habits and anything else but the smoking ban. (Actually I think it fair to say that the legislation was brought in because in spite of a 30-year decline in smoking rates, change was not happening fast enough for those who wanted to bring smoking rates down.)

Of course the trading situation is difficult for the pubs, but the point is that the smoking ban changed pubs from an ideal meeting place for people who wanted to meet friends, colleagues and family for a drink and a chat, to an irrelevance. Smokers made up a larger proportion of pub customers than of the general population. An attack on smokers was bound to hurt the trade (and a significant proportion of cafeterias). The people who wrote the report have been accused of being apologists for the tobacco industry, but it doesn't take tobacco funding to tell you that a smoking ban will put smokers off. In areas and among groups of friends where almost everyone smokes (and some pubs will tell you that nine-tenths of their customers smoke) it just seems more trouble than it's worth to have to keep going outside to smoke.


Freedom to Choose (Scotland) Chairman Eddie Douthwaite was quoted in the STV version of the story as follows:

Eddie Douthwaite of Freedom to Choose (Scotland) believes that modern air filtration methods mean that the smoking ban should be amended.
He said: "Modern air filtration technology is a far cry from the 'ventilation' considered unable to extract toxins or particulate matter from the air when the introduction of a smoking ban was debated in 2005.  
"These air filtration products are currently fitted in aircraft and in hospitals, where they can remove particulate contamination together with airborne viruses, spores, and bacteria. Their use in the hospitality industry as an alternative to smoking bans is surely a step in the right direction especially as the indoor air quality would be far better than the air outdoors.
 "The Scottish Government should accept that new technology has provided a solution that could eliminate any need for this socially divisive and economically disastrous smoking ban."
Freedom to Choose (Scotland) submitted a petition in 2007 to the Scottish Parliament calling for a review of the smoking ban, and the introduction of Regulated Indoor Air Quality Standards. Such a standard would require the use of air-cleaning equipment if air quality did not meet specific standards, and would cover airborne pollution from any source.

In essence the Scottish Parliament agreed to close the petition and to bring its concerns to any future post-legislative scrutiny of the legislation. (The petition was considered jointly with another petition on the smoking ban from the CISWO (Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation) club in Glenrothes, calling for designated smoking rooms to be allowed – their evidence included trading figures from licensed clubs in the area.)

These are the terms in which the case was effectively dismissed by the Health & Sport Committee.

Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 (PE1037 and PE1042)
Dr Simpson: ...I have just one comment on air pollution. It is interesting that when Kenny Gibson and I made the original proposal for a bill to ban smoking in pubs and restaurants, which was rejected by the health minister at the time, the alternative to such a ban was the installation in premises of air filtration and anti-pollution systems. We now know from information that was provided as a result of freedom of information requests to the tobacco companies in America that such systems do not filter carcinogens from the air. I put on record the fact that, as we tackle smoking problems in the future, we will again face one of the most powerful global industries, so we should be extremely careful not to be duped into taking voluntary measures to curtail smoking that could subsequently be circumvented by the tobacco industry.
Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East) (Lab): It is important to consider all the issues in detail. That is why I agree that when post-legislative scrutiny of the 2005 act is undertaken, consideration of the issues that the petitions raise should be right up there with consideration of the other impacts of the smoking ban. It is right and proper for consideration of such matters to feed into that scrutiny.
The Convener: Without prejudging the post-legislative scrutiny, I think that it would be appropriate for the issues that the petitions raise to be considered along with other issues, such as the impact of the ban on businesses. Are members content with that approach? [my emphasis]
THERE HAS BEEN NO POST LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY TO DATE ON THIS SUBJECT. In the meantime the Scottish Government has steam-rollered on with more jewels from the tobacco control agenda, such as the tobacco display ban. 

An example of suitable equipment for tackling irritants in smoke is Air Manager, a link obtained from a government web site. It can take out particles down to 0.01 micron and 99.9 per cent of bacteria, spores and viruses. It takes out not only smoke but the rest of the muck too. 

Thankfully at least STV has been able to recognise that people should know that there is a viable alternative to the smoking ban.


Anonymous said...

Your quote from the Health & Sport committee got me wondering:
"We now know from information that was provided as a result of freedom of information requests to the tobacco companies in America that such systems do not filter carcinogens from the air."

Has anyone ever asked them for the details of this? (Needless to say it has to be nonsense).

Belinda said...


As far as I know no one asked Dr Simpson but I did find this: There's a tiny disclaimer at the bottom.

I won't be buying that equipment anyway!

More here:

Belinda said...

Clearly however some manufacturers are up to the challenge of investigating any problems that are unique to smoke. Isn't this the whole point of applied sciences?

Anonymous said...

Let's see the evidence


Since tobacco smoke is 90% water vapour and air, it is difficult to see how much if any of these carcinogens would be harmful once dissipated into the surrounding air. Their quantity would barely be measurable in pictograms, nanograms, or femtograms…in fact they would be almost imaginary.

Can anyone point to any physical scientific experiments that have been carried out to validate these statements by Dr Simpson?

Chis F J Cyrnik

Anonymous said...

Just a further thought on this. Why did this Dr Simpson issue FOI request to American tobacco companies rather than UK ones? My guess is that American companies (at least the big four) are bound by the MSA to parrot all and every ridiculous anti-smoking claim. So they would quote the fraudulent EPA claim and the absurd US Surgeon General claim of no safe level.
But even with that, it is factually wrong to state 'that such systems do not filter carcinogens from the air.' Obviously they can and do. But only close to, rather than exactly 100%.
(BTW even your second link,, quotes the EPA and Surgeon General rather than any sane source.)

Eddie Douthwaite said...

If the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament wish to continue to present themselves as a democratic entity they must allow the evidence held by Freedom To Choose (Scotland) to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Is a court case possible?

Eddie - wouldn't a court case ever be possible to force the evidence out into the open...surely there has to be a way of doing this.

Chris F J Cyrnik

Anonymous said...

And we are to expect hospitals to pay for the technology to allow smokers to smoke in their premises?

And does this air filtration system also hoover up the ash?

To an extent I sympathise and I think that perhaps the Scottish Government was too strict with its laws. But I don't really see a great deal of difference between allowing smoking and drinking on hospital and other public buildings. Its antisocial, unpleasant and toxic.

Belinda said...

Yes of course hospitals have to pay cleaning bills, but if you are cleaning anyway, the addition of ash is neither here nor there. Ash and butts are more of an eyesore outside where they are far harder to clean. NHS Tayside has spent £20,000 on enforcement officers, money which could have been much better invested in air cleaning systems (which remove all muck out of the air, not only tobacco smoke).

I'm not going to argue about whether smoking is unpleasant and antisocial, because they are personal judgements and you are entitled to them. Not everyone shares them.

To me forcing people outdoors to smoke is antisocial too (I am not a smoker in general) - especially when they are patients who are already ill, visitors anxious about friends and relatives or medical staff needing a short break. Drinking is associated entirely with recreation, but smoking is undertaken throughout the day, so there is a big difference.