Five years ago our pubs were generally full of life, had a great atmosphere and were just about holding their own against vicious price competition from the supermarkets.A promising start. We knew that the supermarket prices had always been a problem, but it was a problem that broke the surface only when the smoking ban had sent away a good number of traditional pub customers.
Mr Waterson's piece goes on to explain how the smoking ban as enacted in Scotland has failed to catch on in Europe, pointing out that the better the weather, the laxer the enforcement tends to be. In terms of trade, bars are closing at four times the rate that they closed before the smoking ban came in. The losses have amounted, he says, to one-eighth of Scotland's pubs.
Comparing this to the smoking cessation rate in Scotland is an interesting move. Although the ban was not introduced (ostensibly) to prevent people from smoking, it's clear that the alleged damage from secondary smoke won't decline in the long term unless the smoking rate declines as well. And Mr Waterson has good reason to draw attention to the poor long-term success rate of smoking cessation interventions by the NHS. The latest official report (summary here) gives this paragraph:
Quit outcomes based on client follow-up at 12 months after the quit date use data for the 2009 calendar year (12 month outcomes for the full 2010 calendar year are not yet available). Based on data for 2009, the quit rate at 12 months was 7% with 68% of cases 'lost to follow-up'/smoking status unknown by this stage.A 7 per cent quit rate at 12 months (that's 7 per cent of the 7.4 per cent of smokers that even tried to give up) seems rather bleak from where I am sitting. Sheila Duffy does her best to sound optimistic but this is all she can manage:
While giving up smoking can be difficult for some, it is encouraging to see that at least 39% of those who attended stop smoking services in 2010 remained quit a month later. [emphasis added]
Mr Waterson speaks of moderate amendments, the old days having gone forever, and so on. Whatever. As long as government dominates the discussion of what should be allowed the trade will need to grow teeth before it will make any impact – if my reading of the current Scottish Government's agenda is accurate. Begging the government to increase drinks prices to ridiculous heights will not help the drinks industry and will not help the licensed trade either. To quote at second hand from here:
The hospitality industry lobbies for more restrictions on supermarket-bought alcohol to boost sales in bars; small brewers push for more punitive tax rates on big brewers... the only winners are the healthists who get support bit by bit for more regulations on everything. It's like a bunch of folks on the scaffolds complaining that the other guy's noose isn't quite tight enough. Y'all might instead direct your attention to the hangman sometime and try helping each other cut those ropes.Things could get more ridiculous yet, as some health expert (not in Scotland thankfully) has said the drinking age should be raised to 24. Raising any legal purchasing age so far beyond the age of majority would not, I suspect, go down well with young people in this country. But some people will enjoy flying this kind of kite.
The licensed trade and its associates and rivals need to consider their strategy very carefully. But it's good to see that the smoking ban is at last getting some of the attention it deserves.