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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 05:20 GMT 06:20 UK
Wristbands, pregnancy and beer gardens
By Doug Kennedy
BBC Scotland news website

Going out in Scotland has changed forever - and soon the rest of the UK will follow.

Gone are the old men nursing a half pint, a whisky and a Woodbine.

Clubbers and pub goers now get a much clearer night out

Gone is the smoky haze at gigs as lasers sweep above the heads of clubbers and concert-goers.

Gone is the need to wash your hair and clothes, simply after popping out for a post-work pint or cocktail.

Just over a year ago, the debate over the Prohibition of Smoking in Regulated Areas (Scotland) Bill centred on the question of personal choice versus personal responsibility.

This was coupled with concern from the entertainment industry over the impact of the ban on business.

But strangely there also seemed to be a general acceptance among even smokers, myself included, that there were few arguments against the logic of the ban.

Whatever your view, the ban is not now just a reality, it is normality and it works

The unhealthy effects of smoking are hard to ignore. Equally drink is pretty unhealthy, but it does not so immediately assault the surrounding atmosphere.

But there is no getting away from the fact that the atmosphere and customs have changed in our pubs, clubs and eateries.

Pubs are now cleaner, shinier and more pleasant places to be, to drink and increasingly to eat.

And the first time you see a pregnant woman sitting happily in a bar you will do a double take.

There are no overflowing ashtrays, no chance of being burned or getting your clothes singed, no stinging eyes.

Pub sign
A culture shift has opened up bars for mums and dads

Going out and staying out is now more democratic. But this is only part of the story.

Although shop-fitters and interior designers have done well obliterating decades of nicotine staining and refurbishing corner cafes, there are plenty of establishments which simply removed the ashtrays and opened the next day, business as usual.

You will also need to prepare to have your senses assaulted by the smell of bleach and sweat.

And worse, there are now times on a night out that you will become more acquainted with what fellow travellers may have had to eat recently than you would really care to know.

There is the social camaraderie, the smirting - smoking/flirting - which takes place outside bars, nightclubs and gigs.

This may make a busy, thronging Sauchiehall Street seem safer as there are likely to be a lot more people around at night.

Mel Smith and Keith Richards
Mel Smith and Keith Richards have come into conflict with the ban

But this also translates into the menacing experience of walking alone past the less salubrious drinking dens, with shadowy groups of punters huddled round doorways, puffing away, dropping more litter.

Manufacturers of umbrellas and heaters have done well in the winter months and every bar with a bit of pavement or beer garden has done its bit to support the outdoor furniture trade.

Wristbands are also a more common sight as gigs, clubs and venues wrestle with the logistics of pass-outs - some using bands to let people come and go as they please, some finding roped off alleyways or balconies to cater for smokers and others simply just banning smokers and carrying on.

The actual long-term impact on the licensed trade, social clubs and bingo halls is still up for debate and concerns have been raised that smoking may have been shifted more into the home, where children face greater exposure.

But health professionals are bullish, with Scotland's chief medical officer speculating that lung cancer could be virtually wiped out in the decades ahead, as disease rates fall.

Men in pub
Sitting in a pub with a cigarette and a pint is a thing of the past

The air quality inside most Scottish bars has been found to be comparable with the outdoors and the success of self-policing has been almost universal.

Psychologically, introducing the ban in the week the clocks went forward was a smart move and emboldened with success, the Scottish Executive is now moving to increase the age for purchasing tobacco to 18.

There has been little evidence of flouting of the ban in its day-to-day operation - I've certainly never seen it.

As one of our smoking panel members comments, the Rolling Stones Keith Richards came to the attention of authorities, as did Mel Smith who threatened to smoke a cigar on stage while playing Churchill.

Whatever your view, the ban is not now just a reality, it is normality and it works.

It has even helped me cut down drastically the amount I smoke.

I don't claim to have stopped yet, but I am now down to a few a day, no longer smoking at work and no longer joining the huddled masses in shelters or under umbrellas.

Not seeing others smoking makes it easier to break those habits of a coffee and a cigarette. Or a half pint and a Woodbine.

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