Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Licensees are quitting, not smokers, says SLTA

Today Paul Waterson has bid for another look at the smoking ban.  He begins:
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] 
Surely anyone wanting to give up would like a fair idea of their chances after the first few weeks of intensive support. Failure to give any information after four weeks doesn't look promising. A rough ballpark figure suggests that from one year to the next, 93 per cent of the smoking population carries on smoking, plus 92 per cent of the remaining 7 per cent who have tried to quit, plus any youngsters who have taken up the habit and minus any smokers who have died. It gives Paul Waterson good grounds for saying that the impact of the smoking ban has been far greater on licensees and their establishments than it has on the smoking rate.

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.


Xopher said...

Tried making a comment but it's not showing!
BUT for the record - here it is:-
Am I allowed to make a comment?
Tobacco control insists that anyone with any connection to Big Tobacco should be excluded from all discussion.
Let's get it straight, I have a set of cutlery my mother got from her Kensitas coupons in the 1960's but I have never used them and they are in there original boxes in the bottom of a filing cabinet in the garage.
I enjoy pubs and the camaraderie they offered - I'm a social drinker and, despite the supermarket prices, do not enjoy drink at home.
Many do and willingly brew their own to avoid even the low supermarket prices - even today I lent out my copy of a superb book entitled 'Drink your own Garden' showing how a gallon of wine can cost less than 50p! (I'm sure there are copies available at eBay or Amazon)
Do-gooders are the bane of the country and society.
Why should we believe the dire warnings of a group like ASH who quote studies that have as little validity as an A' level result from a paper marked by their classmates?
Pubs had a major role in 'shrouding adult weaknesses' within the 4 walls of adult venues yet, through natural evolution, such activities as smoking were declining. They were society's own answer to keeping 'less desirable adult activity' away from their children. No need for the heavy hand and the intrusion and intolerance of a group of scaremongers.
Pubs have had to change to survive and the lucky ones have lost their major social role.
Three cheers for your intolerance - you've destroyed one of of Britain's greatest traits - Tolerance !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Belinda said...

I can see it!

I am not really a smoker .. have dabbled but can't seem to get through more than about ten tabs a year at current rates. But I found bars a very different experience after the ban and quite agree with your comments, Xopher.

The Evening News piece includes a poll. I don't believe in governing by polls (over 6 million people haven't bothered to vote so it doesn't tell you much). But I voted anyway! It's at http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/CustomPages/CustomPage.aspx?PageID=80582

Xopher said...

The use of polls is anathema to society.
When 51% don't like something about the other 49% and it becomes law this Country's deep in the shit.
Majoritarianism is not an answer.

JJ said...

Why not try a pipe Belinda. After seeing you in that photo wearing a hat with corks on it...I truly believe a pipe would be your thing.

But it takes practice to talk and smoke it at the same time.

Belinda said...

Hat with corks in it :-) ??