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."HISTORY OF THE CAMPAIGN
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]