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Unintended consequences of the smoking ban

Smoker
There's been less of this...
Twelve months after the ban on smoking in public places in England, have there been any unexpected results?

The impact of the smoking ban hits you in the face as you walk down the street. Literally.

Clouds of smoke billow from huddled masses on pavements outside bars and clubs.

England's evening streetscape has changed as a result of the new legislation, but only in a way many predicted a year ago.

Likewise, the news that about 400,000 people in England have given up smoking in the first 12 months of the ban is welcome but not surprising.

Here are five less obvious consequences.

MORE BEER GARDENS

There has been a rapid rise in the number of beer gardens and outside spaces for everyone to enjoy, says Gareth Barrett of the British Beer and Pub Association.

"The number of beer gardens renovated in the last year has been huge, so the smoking ban means many pubs have improved their outside spaces, Ground Force-style.

Beer garden
...and more of this

"In many cases they're making beer gardens out of a backyard or wasteland they never used before. In other cases they're improving spaces they already had."

Brewer Shepherd Neame spent more than 3m on such renovations, which is between 5-10,000 per pub.

In theory all this extra supply of al fresco seating should benefit everyone, but some non-smokers have found it harder since the ban to get a smoke-free seat outside.

LESS DRY CLEANING

One area the politicians could not have anticipated was the effect on the dry cleaning industry.

Sean Mason, business development manager of Johnsons, the UK's largest chain of dry cleaners says business has been affected by the smoking ban.

Exact figures are not available and there has been an impact from the economic downturn, but dry cleaning has definitely suffered from the ban.

"People are going out for a drink after work in a non-smoky setting and their suit doesn't need that freshen up that it did before."

CHEFS ARE QUIDS IN

More pubs are serving food than a year ago, says John Porter, food editor of trade newspaper The Publican, as they try and offer more than a "pint and fag". And that's good news for trained chefs.

"The general view of the chef trade is that offers are better than this time last year, although there was some upward pressure already as pubs geared up for the ban.

If they want to get people through the door, they have to give people good reason to come in
John Porter
The Publican

"There's been a marked increase in salary over the past 18 months."

Salaries are about 25,000 (10-15,000 more in a good London pub), up between 5 and 10% on last year, he says.

And website gumtree.com says that in the 12 months to May, the number of adverts for chefs section increased by 16%, mostly driven by postings from restaurants and pubs.

Another knock-on effect of the tough times in the industry is that pubs are offering much more entertainment, says Mr Porter.

"If they want to get people through the door, they have to give people good reason to come in and come up with ways to attract them, whether it be live music, poker, karaoke, quiz nights or Sunday lunch."

Whether the food has improved as a result of this increased provision is another matter.

SMIRTING COMES TO ENGLAND

Forcing smokers outdoors has cultivated a new phenomenon in England among these outcasts - smoking and flirting outside on the street.

The term was already familiar to visitors to the Republic of Ireland but is now entering the English lexicon.

Smirting is believed to have started in Temple Bar, Dublin, in 2004, and some Irish observers suggested that social smoking increased as people who didn't have a regular habit sought the banter they could see happening outside the door.

Asking someone you fancy for a light does not seem so contrived as it does inside, and a five-minute ciggie offers the perfect window of opportunity.

UNFINISHED CONVERSATIONS

Having a natter over a drink is a fondly-held tradition, but a chat with a smoker can be halted mid-flow as they disappear outside. When they return, the momentum is lost and the conversation is left unfinished.

This shift in dynamics is most acute in working men's clubs and social clubs, where an estimated 70% of members are smokers.

Jack Straw at a working men's club in Crewe
'Excuse me, Jack. Need a fag.'

Peter Morris is trustee of a social club in Doncaster with more than 1,000 members. In a letter to the Times last week, he wrote: "I've lost count of the times that an interesting discussion has been curtailed because the smokers disappear to the smoking area. Non-smokers are reduced to 'minding' places at tables until their friends return."

The traditional games like snooker and dominoes have suffered because people keep going outside, he says.

Kevin Smyth, general secretary of the Club and Institute Union, says the greater socialisation offered by clubs has to some extent diminished.

"People are having a chat with a smoker and usually that would have been carried on until it finished but now the smoker leaves and goes outside, comes back in 15 minutes, by which time that conversation has died and people start again."

The survival of many clubs is hanging on a thread, he says, due to the smoking ban and cheaper supermarket drinks.


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