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Time to rethink Scotland's smoking ban, says Forest

Thursday 24th March 2011

The smokers’ lobby group Forest has called for amendments to the smoking ban that would bring Scotland into line with most European countries.

The group wants pubs and clubs in Scotland to have the option of providing separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms. It also wants the regulations on outdoor smoking shelters to be relaxed so that smokers can light up outside in greater comfort all year round.

Speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland, which was introduced on 26th March 2006, Simon Clark, director of Forest, said:

“Other European countries have found a sensible compromise ranging from licensed smoking premises to exemptions for small or drink-only bars. Why not Scotland?

“At the very least the regulations on outdoor smoking shelters should be relaxed so people can smoke outside in a warm and comfortable environment all year round.” 

Clark blamed the smoking ban for accelerating pub closures in Scotland and called on politicians to act:

“Research demonstrates that the smoking ban is the main cause of pub closures in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Total pub losses in England, Scotland and Wales since the introduction of smoking bans in all three countries are in excess of 5,500. Scotland alone has lost over 700 pubs since the introduction of the ban in March 2006.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. Pubs and clubs are the heart of many rural and urban communities and their loss is having a serious impact on jobs and many people’s social lives. 

“Although many smokers have adapted to the ban, compliance does not equal popularity. From the feedback we receive, the ban continues to provoke a great deal of anger and anguish.

“We accept that many people do not want to be exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke, so what we are asking for is an amendment to the ban that would allow separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs.

“The majority of licensed premises would probably remain non-smoking but there would be a degree of choice for those who want to smoke and drink indoors in a warm and sociable environment.

“At present smokers have no choice other than to stand outside, whatever the weather, or stay at home. An increasing number are choosing to stay at home and who can blame them if there is nowhere for them to smoke and drink in comfort?"

Clark added: “For the sake of our local communities, the Scottish Government must review the impact of the smoking ban and consider amendments to this unnecessarily harsh piece of legislation.”

For further comment:
Simon Clark 07774 781840

Notes to editors:

A report by CR Consulting, commissioned in 2010 by the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign, found that the number of pub losses in Britain and Ireland “demonstrate a very close statistical relationship between the introduction of smoking bans and the acceleration of the decline of the British pub.”

Almost three years after the introduction of smoking bans in Ireland, Scotland and England, Scotland had lost 7.1% of its pub estate (467 pubs), Wales 7.3% (274), and England 7.6% (4,148). Scotland, which introduced a smoking ban a year earlier lost a further 4% of its pub estate in the fourth year after the ban, mirroring a similar decline in Ireland (11%) where smoking in pubs was banned in 2004.

According to the report, which used data from a respected industry database, “While there is significant variation in the trajectories of pub closures before the ban, there is an almost total correlation between the three countries after the ban. 

“This indicates that they are affected by a strong common factor - the smoking ban. The correlation is in fact so close that the trend line for the three countries is identical.”

Report available from Save Our Pubs & Clubs.

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