I notice that a couple of the big Conservative blogs, Dizzy and Iain Dale, have clambered aboard a campaign to amend the smoking ban. The argument is that current legislation is too inflexible and provision should be made for certain exemptions. There is an implication that pubs and clubs especially might choose to operate outside the ban, in order to lure back lost customers.
This type of thinking is obviously attractive to the libertarian strand of Conservatism. Personally I oppose the campaign.
I suspect that the smoking ban’s uncompromising nature has provided the impetus for its success. Without producing hard evidence (although I’m quite prepared to do some research if anyone thinks my contentions are questionable) I’d imagine there are fewer smokers today than there were before the legislation came into force and those who do smoke certainly smoke fewer cigarettes when they are out at bars and restaurants. I am told that medical professionals are already satisfied that the ban has had a positive impact on the nation’s health.
On a purely personal level, I have got used to smoke free pubs and I find them much more convivial than their smoke filled equivalents. I’d be prepared to bet that many other customers feel the same. Yes, if a few bars were to reintroduce smoking I could choose to go elsewhere, but necessarily more and more pubs would revert and the ban would be undermined.
Friends who smoke would naturally tend to gravitate towards premises which permitted their habit and non-smokers in their social circle would probably follow rather than appear unduly censorious. Those who had cut down dramatically on their night out cigarette intake would find it gradually creeping up, despite their best intentions. Many of these people have been amongst the most enthusiastic supporters of smoke free bars, in my experience.
To instinctively prohibit anything associated with health problems is clearly not tenable. However when legislation is in place which is working and which the public, for the most part, has accepted and grown used to, I see little point in tinkering with its provisions. Let pubs entice customers back by other means.