Myths and Reality (revisited)

In July 2007, a smoking ban was introduced in all public places, bars, restaurants, railway platforms and workplaces in England. Three months later, the British anti-smoking pressure group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) issued a fact sheet titled 'As the Smoke Clears: Myths and Reality of Smokefree England' (1). Before the ban, ASH consistently dismissed evidence from Ireland and the US that smoke-free legislation damaged business and, in particular, the pub and bingo industries.

When the ASH fact sheet was released in October 2007, the smoking ban had barely been in force for 100 days and it was too soon to judge conclusively whether or not any of this had happened in England. Pub chains and bingo operators had not yet announced their end-of-year accounts and the winter months had not arrived. There was, however, mounting anecdotal evidence of pubs and bingo halls suffering immediate hardship and 'Myths and Reality' was one weapon in the public relations battle over the ban. As we shall see, 'Myths and Reality' used selective data to paint a rosy picture of life after the smoking ban and led the reader to believe that reports of economic damage were propagated by vested interests within what they called "pro smoking organisations" and the "hospitality organisations".

This document listed ten 'myths' about the smoking ban and then gave what ASH called the 'reality' to debunk and discredit them. As this article will show, three of the claims they refuted were never actually made by opponents of the ban, five are demonstrably fallacious, one is contentious and one is now openly espoused by ASH themselves.

All the quotes in italics are direct quotes from the ASH fact sheet with the 'myth' followed by the 'reality'. Six months on, we are better able to distinguish fact from fantasy. Let us begin with the claims that the ban's opponents never actually made.


Misrepresentation


The American writer Michael McFadden describes a 'straw man' argument as "setting up a superficial misrepresentation of the opponent's position that is deliberately weak and easy to destroy. One destroys this 'straw man' and then goes on to claim that they've actually destroyed the opponent's argument itself." (2) There are three such misrepresentations in 'Myths and Reality'':

Myth: House fires will increase as people will stay at home to smoke

Preceding the smoking ban, claims were made that the legislation was going to cause people to stay at home and smoke instead of going out to a pub or club and this would result in a greater number of house fires.

Reality: There have not been any reports to suggest that smoking related fires have increased. Further evidence that like-for-like sales in pubs have not been affected suggests that smokers have continued to visit pubs. Source of the claim: Direct line http://www.directlineinsurance.com/ about_us/news_180407.htm

This is a straw man argument because opponents of the ban never suggested that 'House fires will increase as people will stay at home to smoke'. I can find no record of any group or individual making such a claim and nor, it seems, could ASH since they resort to citing a press release from the insurance company Direct Line as the lone source in this section. ASH's own claim that there has been no increase in house fires and no decrease in pub sales are, however, completely unreferenced.

Then there is this 'myth':

Myth: The public do not want a smoking ban or any further tobacco control measures.

Groups such as freedom2choose argue that the public are not only against the smokefree legislation but they also do not want further tobacco control measures.

Reality: However the survey commissioned by ASH, Asthma UK and the British Thoracic Society found that there was strong support for further tobacco control measures with 72 per cent supporting Reduced Ignition Propensity cigarettes (firesafer cigarettes), 63 per cent of people supporting picture warnings and 59 per cent supporting banning cigarette vending machines.

There are two very different issues at stake here. The first is whether the public supported the smoking ban. The second is whether the public supports 'further measures'. As a rebuttal, ASH cite the results of a survey (commissioned by themselves) which showed that the majority of people supported the banning of cigarette machines and the use of graphic warnings on cigarette packs. But opponents of the ban never discussed vending machine sales or graphic photos and these issues had nothing to do with the smoking ban. This diversionary tactic takes the reader's mind off the real issue which ASH mention but do not discuss, which is that the majority of the public did not want an outright ban on smoking.

Almost ever survey conducted in England has shown that a clear majority of people would - if given the choice - prefer to see designated smoking sections rather than an outright ban. ASH say nothing about what the public thought of the ban itself and instead debate an entirely different issue which was never raised by "the hospitality industry and pro smoking groups" in the run-up to the ban.

Myth: There will be large scale non-compliance

Critics argued that a total ban on smoking in public places would not be possible to police and there would be large scale non- compliance.

Reality: However two independent surveys tell a different story. The first by the Department of Health, released in August, found that 97% of businesses are complying with the new smoking legislation. Secondly a YouGov survey recently released by ASH, Asthma UK and the British Thoracic Society found similar results with 97% of pub goers saying they had not smoked in a pub or enclosed space since the ban came into force, while 86% of pub goers said that they had not seen anyone smoking in a pub. The evidence dismisses the arguments by critics surrounding large scale non-compliance.

Source of the claim: The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/ news/2007/06/03/nsmoke03.xml

The claim that "there will be large scale non-compliance" was never made by 'pro-smoking organisations'. In fact FOREST always maintained that widespread civil disobedience was unlikely (3). The ASH fact-sheet only references an article from The Daily Telegraph which had the headline '100s of pubs to flout smoking ban' but which did not quote anyone from a 'pro smoking organisation' promising "large scale non-compliance".


The contentious


Let us now look at the arguments which the ban's opponents actually made. The first is contentious at best.

Myth: People won't really quit

Reality: The survey by ASH, Asthma UK and the British Thoracic Society found that 12% of smokers have attempted to quit since the 1st July. Primary Care Trusts in Lancashire, Brighton and Hove, and Barking and Dagenham have all reported a 100% increase in people using stop smoking services.

Firstly, let us remember that during their campaign for the ban, ASH and the other anti-smoking groups solidly maintained that the legislation was designed to protect the health of nonsmokers and not to coerce smokers into giving up. This was repeated like a mantra at the time but now seems to have been forgotten.

As for the substance of this 'myth', the claim that the ban has 'encouraged' more people to give up smoking is a moot point. One might expect a far-reaching smoking ban to have an effect on smoking rates, this has not always been the case in other countries. New Zealand, to name but one, saw the number of smokers gradually rise every year after its smoking ban was introduced.

According to one report, the number of smokers in England appears has fallen somewhat in the wake of the ban but it is unclear what their motivation was or how many of them will become smokers again in the long-term(4). It has recently been reported that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have found the smoking rate in the UK to have fallen from 24% to 22% in the last year but there is no statement of this on the ONS website.

Cigarette consumption has also dropped since the ban but similar falls in tobacco consumption were seen in Ireland, Scotland and Italy before rising again soon after. It is too early to say whether or not the same will happen in England.


The false


Five of the other claims made by the ban's opponents were far from being myths, as subsequent events have demonstrated.

Myth: It will be bad for pubs

Pro smoking groups claimed that the smokefree legislation would be bad for business and we would lead to many pubs closing down. The evidence to date from notable pub groups is that the smoking ban has had 'little impact' upon their sales. Capital Pubs announced profits and that the 'smoking ban has had no material impact on business'. Greene King said like-for-like sales were up by 2% in managed houses and 1% in tenanted pubs. Punch Tavern shares rose by 2.3% and announced the smoking ban as having 'little impact upon sales'. Mitchells & Butler announced that the smoking ban has not affected UK sales with like-for-like sales increasing by 2.6 per cent. Furthermore a recent YouGov survey commissioned by ASH found that 20% of non-smokers reported that they visited pubs more often since the smoking ban. Source of the claim: Freedom2choose: http://www.freedom2choose.org.uk/ [nb. the freedom2choose.org.uk referenced here and elsewhere in ASH's document is a different organisation from Freedom2Choose.info]

ASH name four specific pub chains, all of which were putting on a brave face in the immediate wake of the smoking ban. Let's take them one by one.

When interviewed in November 2007, the Chief Executive of Capital Pubs expressed confidence about trade "despite the smoking ban". At that time, the company's share price was £1.60 but soon afterwards winter really kicked in and the smokers disappeared en masse. The share price has since fallen by 33% and now stands at £1.08. But compared to their competitors, Capital got off lightly.

News stories like 'Greene King sales rise allays smoking ban fears' (5) and 'Greene King absorbs smoking ban' (6) painted a rosy picture for the Suffolk brewery in the weeks following the ban. Greene King is one of the great recent success stories in the pub industry and it had more reason to be more optimistic than some of its rivals since 90% of its pubs were able to offer outdoor smoking areas. Like the other pub giants, the company expected a spate of pub closures elsewhere which would allow them to snap up some nice properties cheaply and consequently it expected to survive in the long term. Shareholders were less confident. After quadrupling in value between 2003 and July 2007, the company's share price began to slide as soon as the smoking ban came into effect and it has nearly halved in the nine months since (7).

In September 2007, Punch Taverns reduced their financial projections by 2-3% due to poor trading in a "soggy summer" and insisted that "the trading lull was a 'one-off blip' that had nothing to do with the impact of the smoking ban." (8) It remained buoyant about sales in the longer term - hence the quote ASH used above. Two months later, the rain was gone but trade continued to be flat and for the first time the company expressed concerns about the smoking ban. "Cautious is the word we are using for how we think 2008 will turn out," said Giles Thorley, the managing director of Punch, "We cannot say more than that because of the uncertainties surrounding the slowdown in consumer confidence and the long-term effects of the smoking ban."

By January, things were looking more desperate. With its share price in free-fall, Punch Taverns announced that the first six months of the ban had seen sales slip for the first time in years. In the six months since ASH used the rather feeble 2.3% rise in Punch's share price, the company's share price has plummetted from £11.00 to £6.00. A company spokesman finally had to admit the obvious: "The smoking ban has impacted trading," he said(9).

Finally, there is Mitchells & Butler, owners of the Harvester chain. Again, the share price tells the story and again the company's stock peaked just before the smoking ban and has been falling ever since. Two thirds of its share price has been wiped off since July 2007.

And what of the pub chains ASH didn't mention?

The country's second-biggest pub company, Enterprise Inns, sold all their pubs in Scotland within months of the smoking ban coming into effect there (10). In November 2007, Enterprise announced its first drop in profits for five years and its CEO warned that the smoking ban would lead to further pub closures. (11)(12) You can probably guess the rest. Enterprise's share price peaked in the weeks before the smoking came into effect and have since halved in value (from £7.80 to £3.90)

Regent Inns issued a profit warning in December 2007 and announced that trading had deteriorated as winter set in. Its shares immediately fell by 34 per cent (13).

Then there is Wetherspoon's, whose boss Tim Martin was an early convert to the smoke-free cause. In 2004, he urged the government to pass a blanket ban on smoking but when asked why he didn't ban smoking in his own 650 public houses, he replied that it would be "commercial suicide" (14). He found out how true that was a year later when he practised what he preached by turning dozens of Wetherspoon pubs into smoke-free zones. The share price began to slide and when parliament voted for an outright ban in February 2006 he called off all plans to make further premises non-smoking until the legislation forced him to.

The one benefit of Wetherspoon's baptism of fire was that it gave the company a head start in learning how to run non-smoking pubs. Early reports suggested the experience had paid off but it didn't last. Six months and one British winter was all it took for the headlines to turn from 'Smoking ban fails to dent JD Wetherspoon's profits' (September 2007) to 'Wetherspoon blames smoking ban for 13% profit drop' (March 2008) (15) (16). Like most of its rivals it has seen its share price fall in half since July 2007. Under its new chief executive, John Hutson, Wetherspoon's has begun open early in the day and are concentrating on selling breakfast and coffee. "The big picture," he says, "is that we are just going to have to find new customers."(17).

Is it a coincidence that all these thriving companies hit a brick wall in July 2007 and have seen a dramatic downturn in their fortunes ever since? Certainly, it is no longer tenable to blame the pub trades' problems on a wet summer that happened nine months ago but of course there are always other economic factors to consider. In the case of Mitchells and Butler, for instance, the effect of the smoking ban has been compounded by mismanagement and poor investments. It is also true that the British economy has been jittery in recent months but while the FTSE has dipped by 12% since July 2007, the share prices of the major pub corporations has fallen by around 50%-60%.

Nothing dramatic happened to the British economy in July 2007 and yet it was in this month that the rot set in for all the pub companies. The industry has been suffering from higher taxes and cheap off license sales for years but none of this can explain the massive acceleration in pub closures and bankruptcies since the smoking ban. The headlines in the financial pages of the newspapers tell their own story:

'Pubs giant slumps as smoke ban saps sales' The Evening Standard (November 2007)

'Pub beer flattened by smoking ban' The Guardian (January 2008)

'Smoking ban begins to bite into brewers' profits' LDP Business (February 2008)

'Wetherspoon chokes on smoking ban' The Herald (March 2008)

The financial analysts Goldman Sachs - hardly a "pro smoking organisation'' - recently stated that the smoking ban has reduced average pub profits by 10% (18). Scottish & Newcastle, the UK's largest brewery estimated a 8% fall in beer sales in January(19) and since then beers sales in the UK have fallen to their lowest level since the Great Depression (20). But most devastating to the ASH version of events are the statistics for pub closures which accelerated dramatically in 2007. The trade journal The Morning Advertiser blamed this squarely on "the savage impact of the smoking ban and spiralling costs" (21) and the figures require little comment:

2005: 2 a week

2006: 4 a week

2007: 27 a week

(22)

This seven-fold increase in pub closures is unprecedented in recent British history and although the smoking ban is not the industry's only enemy, the evidence that it has been severely damaged by the smoke-free legislation is now indisputable.

Myth: It will be bad for bingo

In the lead up to the smoking ban, pro smoking groups argued that the smokefree legislation was going to be particularly detrimental for both the profitability and long term outcomes of Bingo, with smokers more likely to stay home and use online gaming sites.

Reality: Gaming group Rank, which has 86 clubs in England said it was encouraged by performance at its Mecca bingo, with company shares up by 8.75%.

Of all the hostages to fortunes ASH committed to paper in their 'fact sheet', the claim that bingo would thrive under the smokefree legislation was the most vulnerable to reality. It was also the most unnecessary. ASH could have easily left any mention of bingo out of 'Myths and Reality' and few would have remarked on the omission. Instead they explicitly described something which had already been amply demonstrated in Scotland and Wales as a 'myth'.

What ASH did not mention in their rebuttal of this 'myth' is that Rank were "encouraged" because bingo revenues in England had fallen by a mere 4.4% since the ban, despite shutting down ten English bingo halls in preparation for it and despite revenue having risen 2.3% in the six months before it (23). It says much about the devastating effect of the smoking ban in Scotland that Rank declared themselves pleased with a 4.4% fall in revenue in England but then Rank had seen a 15% fall in revenue in Scotland after the ban there (and had to lay off 240 staff) so they must have been thankful for small mercies. Still, it was only August and things were about to get a good deal worse.

In October, Rank issued a profit warning and announced that its Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos businesses had "experienced a significant deterioration in revenue in recent weeks" (24). This was just the beginning. In England and Wales, bingo revenues fell by 20% after the ban came into effect. After initially predicting the smoking ban would cost the company £1 million, it now forecasts that profits will slide from £75m to £50m in 2008. Rank is losing £1m in revenue every fortnight from the gaming machines alone.

As for the 8.75% upturn in Rank's share price which ASH used as evidence that the smoking ban was not "bad for bingo", it will bring a hollow laugh from the company's accountants. It was a tiny blip in an unremitting downward cycle for the stock. Since trading at a high of £4.40 in the weeks before the Scottish smoking ban began, nearly 70% has been wiped off the company's share price. In February 2006 the stock was trading at well over £3.00. You can now buy a share in Rank Leisure for 96p.

And let's not forget Rank's main rival, Gala Bingo. If ASH were looking for a quote they could have come to Gala's chief executive Neil Goulden. In 2006 he was told by Scottish anti-smoking groups that the ban would reinvigorate his business but a year after it came into force he told the BBC: "The effect of the smoking ban in Scotland's been a lot worse than we thought it was going to be. We've actually now lost 8% of our customer base who have stopped coming altogether. We could have 200 bingo clubs closing." (25) By the end of the year, Gala's bingo revenues had fallen by 11% (26) but the company promised not to close any bingo halls. Alas, there was no sign of a revival over Christmas and the New Year and the first English closures were announced a few weeks later (27) .

Myth: Working men's clubs and shisha bars will close

Claims and protests that the smoking ban would result in mass closures of shisha bars and working men's clubs, threatening the livelihood of the owners were unfounded. Working men's clubs feared that the smoking ban would see one in five of its clubs closing down following the smoking ban whilst shisha bars argued that they would be unable to operate if smoking was banned in enclosed places.

Reality: There have yet to be any reported closures as a result of the ban. Source of the claim: Save the Shisha campaign

Weblink: http://savetheshishacampaign.com/page2.htm

If it was not clear in October 2007, it is certainly clear now that there is nothing mythical about the working men's clubs that have shut their doors since the smoking ban came into force. Working men's clubs have been closing at three times the rate they were before the ban (28) and their management have regularly identified the smoking ban as a major factor in the collapse of their business (29). There is less evidence of shisha bars closing as yet but this is due, at least in part, to widespread noncompliance. Logic dictates that venues like shisha bars - which are designed solely for the smoking of tobacco - will suffer as a result of a total ban on smoking.

Myth: Smoking is a victimless crime/ Claims about the health impact are flawed.

Pro smoking groups continue to dispute credible medical evidence regarding the dangers of secondhand smoke and the health consequences of smoking.

The lack of evidence that passive smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases in nonsmokers has been discussed many times, including in my own forthcoming book Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (30). I would only add that ASH do themselves no favours by citing the preposterous Scottish heart attack study as "credible medical evidence".

Myth: There will be heavy handed enforcement with undercover officers and covert filming.

Pro smoking organisations and landlords reasoned that the smoking ban would result in heavy handed enforcement, covert filming and armies of undercover enforcement officers. Simon Clarke a FOREST spokesperson argued that it will be like a 'sledgehammer cracking a nut' and the British Beer and Pub Association believed that enforcement would be too heavy handed.

Reality: What has happened in practice is that council officials have approached the situation as they said they would, in a reasonable manner applying a 'softly softly' approach with relatively few being issued. Further, Lambeth council have recently reported that they issued their first fine while Staffordshire have yet to issue a single fine, providing further evidence that these claims were unsubstantiated. Source of the claim: BBC and Forest

Weblink: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6346435.stm

There is an element of misrepresentation in ASH's comments here. Their opponents' argument about enforcement was more about disproportionate resources and unnecessary powers than about fear of thuggery and repression. Groups like FOREST acknowledged from the outset that the smoking ban would take little enforcing and that it was therefore excessive to devote £30 million and 1,200 officials to the task of policing it. 1,200 people may not quite constitute an 'army' but it is certainly a sizeable regiment and it is a lot of people to employ for the purpose of giving out the handful of tickets ASH describe above. The analogy of the sledgehammer and the nut does not seem out of place.

As for "undercover officers and covert filming", there is no question that those charged with policing the ban were given powers to go undercover and carry out secret filming. It is not as if they ever pretended otherwise. ASH correctly noted that "council officials have approached the situation as they said they would, in a reasonable manner applying a 'softly softly' approach with relatively few fines being issued." This is precisely what the man in charge of training the enforcement officers told the BBC (ASH used the BBC's report as a reference for this section of their document) but ASH did not report his next sentence which was: "But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that. These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence."

There was never any doubt that the 'softly softly approach' was anything other than a temporary tactic and Liverpool City Council official Andy Hull made this quite clear in the same news report: "We want to make our presence felt from the start," he said, "and while we will probably just issue warnings on the first day, we won't be afraid of making an example of people or businesses if they try to make a stand." (31)

As these quotes illustrate, it was not the "pro smoking organisations" who were warning of "heavy-handed" enforcement and "covert filming" so much as the very people who were in charge of policing the ban. This policing involved a starting fund of £30 million. 1,200 officials were employed as enforcers. Officials were given permission to secretly film in pubs and elsewhere. Every building in Britain from cathedrals to chemists was forced to display no-smoking signs or face prosecution. The fine for infringing the law was inflated from £200 to £2,500 to stamp down on civil disobedience. One of the people who "tried to make a stand" was Nick Hogan who was ordered to pay £10,000 for breaching the law (32). Another was Tony Blows, ordered to pay a £12,000 (33). Neither of these men were prosecuted for smoking themselves, only for failing to prevent others from smoking. Does this sound heavy-handed? Does this sound disproportionate?


The contradictory


Myth: There will be an increase in exposure of secondhand smoke in the home, affecting children.

Pro smoking groups argued that we would see an increasing number of people buying alcohol from supermarkets and off licences and drinking and smoking at home instead of pubs, which would result in exposing children to greater levels of secondhand smoke.

Reality: The YouGov survey by ASH, Asthma UK and The British Thoracic Society asked those who were exposed to smoke before and after the smoking legislation about their levels of exposure to secondhand smoke at home. The results found that exposure had significantly decreased as the law encouraged people to make homes smokefree.

Since they did not accept that the smoking ban would put smokers off from going to the pub, ASH's spokeswomen naturally did not accept that they would smoke more at home. Whether they actually believed this or not we may never know but it was, in any case, not a stance that they could long maintain. As was widely predicted, ASH soon moved from banning smoking in workplaces to pushing for smoking bans in the home and this required a shameless U-turn. Six months after dismissing the idea that people were smoking more at home, ASH's spokeswoman Amanda Sandford became a vocal proponent of this 'myth', as she told The People newspaper on March 9 2008.

"Last night anti-smoking pressure group ASH told The People that the Government's public smoking ban had made the problem WORSE for children - because it encouraged parents to light up at home instead of in pubs. .. ASH campaigner Hannah (sic) Sandford said the smoking ban had put kids at greater risk. She said: 'We now have a situation where adults are protected from second hand smoke but young children are not.' " (34)


Where next for ASH?


It is only six months since ASH published 'Myths and Reality' but already there is abundant evidence that it was the predictions of ASH which were the 'myths' and not those of their opponents. Whether measured in terms of revenue, profit, share price or closures, the hospitality, pub and bingo industries have suffered as a direct result of the implementation of England's smoking ban. Much of this damage was evident as early as September 2007 and was exacerbated by the winter months when, as widely forecast, fewer smokers were prepared to brave the cold and the rain to smoke.

In the face of this overwhelming evidence it would be foolhardy of ASH to continue to deny it entirely and they can be expected to employ one or both of the following arguments in the months ahead.

Firstly, they may reluctantly accept that the hospitality industry has been damaged to some extent but that the smoke-free legislation was enacted for the public health, not for the benefit of the pub trade. They will not use the phrase "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" but the meaning will be much the same. In truth, if there are any public health benefits are to gained from the smoking ban then they will take decades to manifest themselves but anti-smoking groups have already begun to divert attention from the economic damage by lauding spurious statistics which purport to show an immediate drop in heart attack incidence in Scotland, Italy and carefully selected towns in the US. Similar reports may appear in England if the figures can be found to support this irrational hypothesis.

Secondly, they may place the blame on other factors, particularly the state of the economy. This may be their best bet. The British economy is expected to slow down in 2008 as a result of the 'credit crunch' and the stagnation of the property market. Anti-smoking groups like ASH will likely portray the decline in the pub trade as a result of the wider economic downturn and they have already been given a helping hand by the Chancellor of the Exchequer who raised taxes on alcohol in the 2008 Budget. The extra amount drinkers will be expected to pay are actually relatively minor (4p has been added to a pint of beer), but the government has promised to continue increasing alcohol tax above the rate of inflation for the next few years and clearly none of this will help landlords who are already struggling. ASH can be expected to blame all the pub closures, profit warnings and bankruptcies that have occurred since July 2007 on this tax rise while downplaying or simply ignoring the effect of the smoking ban.

This is not to say that consumer confidence, rising taxes or excessive rents are not major challenges for the pub trade in 2008 but it should be remembered that the huge rise in pub closures witnessed in the first year of the ban occurred well before the tax rise on beer and at a time when the economy was still relatively buoyant. We should also remember that there was no sign of recession in 2006 when the first bingo halls closed in Scotland and Ireland's economy was positively booming when the smoking ban came into force there in 2004 but it did nothing to prevent over 1,000 pubs closing. And if the bingo halls and casinos are suffering as a result of consumers tightening their belts and spending less on gambling then why are revenues from online gambling websites rocketing while smoke-free bricks-and-mortar establishments are closing their doors?

With 27 pubs closing every week in a year when the ban was only in force for the last six months, the rate of closures is bound to accelerate in 2008 and 2009. If this happens, it will represent the darkest period for the pub trade in English history and traditional 'wet' pubs will be most vulnerable to bankruptcy, especially if they cannot offer an outside smoking area (35). Eventually, however, the laws of economics dictate that the market will readjust and an equilibrium will be found. The number of pubs and bingo halls will eventually decline to meet the reduced demand for smoke-free venues. and, once this level is reached, the pubs that have shut will be forgotten, the remaining pubs will be doing better business, the share prices of the big pub companies will rise and ASH will use all of this to show that the smoking ban had no negative effect on the hospitality industry in the long term. The price of this readjustment will be the closure of many hundreds of pubs in England's towns and villages and it will take several years but by the time the government undertake their review of the smoking ban in 2010 it will be too late for many of the traditional pubs, bingo halls and shisha bars. The worst damage will have already been done but the businesses that have gone to the wall will have fallen silent.

All ASH have to do during this period is weather the storm and drown out the noise from the dying businesses with their own messages. Documents like 'Myths and Reality' are aimed at persuading policy-makers and the media that the smoking ban has been a success on every level. ASH is - and always has been - a government funded pressure group which spreads its message via the media. The purpose of 'Myths and Reality' was to portray opponents of the smoking ban as being in the pay of either the tobacco industry or the hospitality industry and to make the public believe that these vested interests spread false stories of economic damage caused by the smoking ban. This has long been the tactic of anti-smoking groups in the United States and it is an effective one because it makes journalists and news editors think twice before they cover any story which portrays the smoking ban in a bad light. The myth of a prosperous and happy smoke-free England obscures the reality of closures, bankruptcies and unemployment but the public relations exercise has worked so far. Reports of pub, club and bingo hall closures are largely confined to the regional press and trade journals. When an unprecedented sevenfold increase in pub closures barely creates a ripple in the mainstream press but an unpublished and deeply misleading report about heart attacks in Scotland is treated as headline news, it is clear that the media's treatment of the smoking ban has become horribly skewed. The myth is winning out over reality.


Christopher J. Snowdon is the author of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: A History of Anti-Smoking

References

1. http://smokefree.ash.positive-dedicated.net/pdfs/mythsandrealitiesofsmokefreeengland.pdf

2. Michael McFadden, 'Dissecting Anti-Smokers' Brains', AEthna press, 2003

3. http://takingliberties.squarespace.com/taking-liberties/?currentPage=18 (Rumour and reality).

4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7214849.stm

5. http://www.beveragedaily.com/news/ng.asp?id=68898-greene-king-smoking-ban-beer

6. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6309067.stm

7.http://www.iii.co.uk/investment/detail?display=news&code=cotn:GNK.L&pageno=2&period=2007

8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/sep/07/7

9.http://www...mirror.co.uk/news/money/city/2008/01/17/punch-taverns-hit-by-smoking-ban-89520-20288332/

10.http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/investing-and-markets/article.html?in_article_id=414860&in_page_id=3

11. http://www.thepublican.com/story.asp?storycode=57741

12. http://www.harpers.co.uk/news/4922/Enterprise-says-smoking-ban-wi.ehtml

13. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/markets/article2991200.ece

14. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article505857.ece

15.http://www.inthenews.co.uk/money/business/news/buisness/wetherspoon-blames-smoking-ban-13-profit-drop-$1210307.htm

16.http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/news/display.var.2103730.0.Wetherspoon_chokes_on_smoking_ban.php

17. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/jan/04/business.smokingban

18. http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=57659

19. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/jan/04/business.smokingban

20. http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30400-1305457,00.html

21. http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=57964

22. http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news_detail.aspx?articleid=57964

23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6970074.stm

24. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/10/13/cnrank113.xml

25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6665391.stm

26. http://www.galacoral.co.uk/MediaCentre_389.html

27. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/jan/05/1

28. http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/Last-gasp-for-working-mens39.3714359.jp

29.http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=136731&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136377&contentPK=19564418&folderPk=79650&pNodeId=136241

30. http:// www.velvetgloveironfist.com

31. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6346435.stm

32.http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/mostpopular.var.2002303.mostcommented.nick_hogan_to_appeal_against_smoking_fine.php

33. http://www.thepublican.com/story.asp?sectioncode=7&storycode=58917&c=1

34.http://www.people.co.uk/news/tm_headline=pound-10-cigs%26method=full%26objectid=20344600%26siteid=93463-name_page.html

35. Peter Haydon, 'The English Pub: A History', Robert Hale, London, 1994