Friday 11 January 2013

Pub closures and the smoking ban

The BBC is running an article about pub closures in Britain. In typical fashion, Auntie blames supermarkets and taxation while studiously avoiding the massive elephant in the room that is the smoking ban. No doubt excessive alcohol duty has exacerbated the situation for many boozers, and there is a longterm decline in pub numbers going back over a hundred years, but there can be no doubt that forcing many of their best customers out into the cold has been devastating for much of the UK pub trade.

I recently obtained the statistics showing the number of pubs in operation from the British Beer and Pub Association. Shown below, a picture is worth a thousand words...

A popular excuse of anti-smoking campaigners (who, let's not forget, predicted that pubs would benefit from a huge influx of nonsmokers) is to blame the post-2007 decline on the recession. But as you can see from the graph, not only did the big drop-off begin before the recession started, but the previous recessions of the early '80s and early '90s (shown as shaded areas above) did not lead to pubs closing at a faster rate. In fact, the data support the traditional view that pubs are 'recession-proof'.

Supermarkets did not suddenly start selling alcohol in 2007 and beer duty did not suddenly jump up. Something else must have happened in 2007 to cause this unprecedented decline in pub numbers. Something that happened on the same scale in Ireland when it began in 2004. Something that the pub trade has identified as the killer blow. Something that most publicans, even five years laters, still want to get rid off. Ooh, whatever could it be?


Fredrik Eich said...

CamRA predicted 7,000,000 new customers would go to pubs after the smoking ban came in. But they are now saying that pubs are getting 3,000,000 less customers since 2008, not because of the smoking ban but because of the beer duty escalator.

One wonders what CamRA would have blamed had it not been for the beer duty escalator but it would probably not be the smoking ban.

Jonathan Bagley said...

The Irish economy was the darling of the chatterati back in 2004. That's what seals it for me - plus the shelf space devoted to £2 a pint English bottled beers in my local Morrisons.

proglodyte said...

Given that the overall number of pubs is continuously falling one would imagine that the rate of closure would at least decline.

JohnB said...

Why society-fixer fanatics/zealots/extremists (e.g., medically-legitimized anti-tobacco) are dangerously dysfunctional.

Fanatics were more than adequately warned that extortionate taxes would promote a contraband market. This falls on deaf ears when fanatics, in addition to governments, are also profiting (funding) from extortionate taxes. When a contraband market begins to flourish, as predicted, the fanatics go into denial – “of course there’s no contraband market”, they squeal. When the facts make denial impossible, they just blame something or someone else. They are quick to divest, to exonerate, themselves of any blame for detrimental consequences.

Extortionate taxes also put more severe pressure on those of lower income if they don’t want to quit smoking and have no access to contraband. It is further impoverishing them. How do the fanatics that produced the circumstance react? “It’s not our fault. It’s the fault of smoking”, e.g.,
“Higher taxes don't in fact burden low-income households: smoking does.”

There are smoking bans in mental institutions. The hardest hit are involuntary patients that smoke. It must be remembered that involuntary patients are not criminals. They are not permitted to smoke at all. The fanatics prefer that these patients are restrained physically or chemically (sedation – more profit for Pharma) rather than allow them to have a cigarette – even outside. And the needless, cruel confrontation/agitation, probably on a daily basis, can go on for months, if not years.

The fanatical, dictatorial message is clear – do as we say or you will be punished. When the punishment comes, the “cause” of the detrimental consequences is laid back on the victim and/or his “addiction”, and where “addiction” has also been defined by the same fanatics. It gives the fanatics free license to do what they will because any detrimental consequences are never their fault.

Campus-wide smoking/tobacco bans are picking up momentum particularly in American universities. These draconian, social-engineering bans place adult students, particularly female students, in imminent danger (e.g., physical assault) as smokers are forced - under threat of penalty - to walk to the outer boundary of a campus particularly at night. Fanaticism has placed these students in immediate danger of causally definable harm in an attempt to “protect” them from statistically-defined tobacco “harm” some 30, 40, 50+ years in the future. If anything catastrophic was to happen to one of these students, the fanatics would divest themselves of any responsibility claiming that that’s the consequences of smoking “addiction”. The same can be said for property-wide bans at hospitals that require patients/visitors to walk/wheel to the outer perimeter, in any weather, if they want to smoke.

JohnB said...

The chemical load of the manufactured cigarette has been INCREASED not by the tobacco industry but by the Tobacco Control Industry. “Fire safe” or Reduced Ignition Propensity (RIP) cigarettes have been made mandatory in a number of countries. These involve a series of glue rings on the inside of the cigarette paper. When burned, this glue increases the chemical load of the cigarette. There are smokers that have experienced immediate symptoms with these cigarettes, e.g., constant phlegm, harsh coughing, wheezing, headaches. A petition of some 30,000 names requesting a review of these cigarettes was submitted to a US congressman a few years ago. Nothing has been heard since. Switching to roll-your-own tobacco (and non-fire-safe papers) – although fiddly - immediately clears the symptoms. It’s the antismoking fanatics that aggressively pushed for this modification. The critical problem is that they were never health tested on humans. It’s a disaster that at some point will come back to haunt the fanatics supposedly representing “public health”.

For example, a primary promoter of FSCs in America was Greg Connolly. Connolly led the 2005 Harvard study that found higher levels of some toxins in fire-safe cigarette smoke. He said these differences were insignificant.

"There's actually more variation in toxin levels among the different cigarettes within a brand than between fire-safe and conventional cigarettes, he said.
"The cigarette is the most lethal, toxic product in the marketplace," Connolly said. Fire-safe cigarettes, he said, are "no more or less lethal."

To make such a claim, health studies for FSCs would be required and that indicated no elevated risk of symptomatology/disease. Since no such studies were ever conducted, Connolly’s claim is an outright, dangerous lie.

Everywhere we look, the fanatics are wreaking havoc. They have mangled scientific enquiry beyond recognition, as, too, statistical and causal inference. The idea of dosimetry has been repeatedly brutalized. Inflammatory propaganda has been a constant assault on mental health that promotes irrational fear and hatred, bigotry, and social division (dysfunction). It must be remembered that these greedy, pathological liars that have left a trail of multi-dimensional destruction in their wake represent Public Health. These miscreants are those that cast themselves in the role of the “mythological good”: They are pathetic impostors, fakes, frauds.

From three decades of abhorrent conduct, there are a number of things that can be said of the psychology of fanaticism/zealotry/extremism, particularly as it pertains to anti-tobacco. Fanaticism represents at least the following cluster of mental dysfunction: Acute fixation (monomania), self-absorption (Narcissism, ego mania), obsession with control (megalomania), greed, a “god complex” (e.g., delusions of grandeur, infallibility, and benevolence). These dysfunctions are held in place by agenda-driven pathological lying.

JohnB said...

The above can be put another way.

Who but the mentally disturbed would inflict the Chapman Trick – the attempt to manipulate nonsmokers in particular into the belief that in SHS they are breathing vaporized ant poison, embalming fluid, toilet cleaner, road tar, etc - on the population under the masquerade of medical “authority” to shove the antismoking agenda down everyone’s throat? Who but the mentally disturbed would set out to convince the public that even a whiff of ambient tobacco smoke is “toxic and dangerous”, that there is “no safe level” of tobacco smoke? Who but the mentally disturbed would actively promote such irrational belief, fear and hatred to advance their agenda?

Who but the mentally disturbed, having shoved the Chapman Trick on the population, also “educated” the public that exposure to SHS represents nonsmokers being “forced to smoke” against their will, i.e., passive smoking, secondhand smoking? Smoking involves the inhalation (drawback) of a concentrated “packet” of smoke: Simply breathing air that has some remnants of smoke does not remotely resemble smoking. Passive or secondhand smoking are just some amongst many inflammatory myths.

Who but the mentally disturbed would contrive tobacco-use into the same sentence with narcotics such as cocaine and heroin?

Who but the mentally disturbed (and greedy) would push for taxes on tobacco to be raised to compounded extortionate levels on a fraudulent basis (and for their own financial profit), knowing full well that that is also the best way to promote a contraband market and further oppresses those of low income? Who but the mentally disturbed, having actively promoted a contraband market, then deny any responsibility?

Who but the mentally disturbed would jeopardize the immediate health (e.g., physical assault) of smokers – for no other than bigoted, social-engineering reasons – by having them walk to dark, isolated, and sometimes distant, areas if they want a cigarette? Who but the mentally disturbed would insist that no accommodation be given to the habit of smoking whatsoever?

Who but the mentally disturbed cannot reason through the detrimental consequences of their social-engineering and, when these potential/actual consequences are pointed out, they couldn’t care less anyway? Who but the mentally disturbed would disavow any responsibility for any detrimental consequences of their making? All that matters to the mentally disturbed is their acute fixation - their deranged smokefree “utopia” - at any cost, and where the cost is typically borne by those other than the fanatics that are producing the cost.

Who but the mentally disturbed would jeopardize the economic viability of businesses through baseless, draconian smoking bans/policy and then contend that no such detrimental consequence ever occurs? Who but the mentally disturbed, where denial of such consequences is impossible, then deny that it has anything to do with them?

Who but the mentally disturbed would make it mandatory to increase the chemical load of cigarettes (FSC) and never bother to have such a product change health tested? Who but the mentally disturbed, when alerted to the failure, then demonstrate that they couldn’t care less?

Who but the mentally disturbed, having already promoted a contraband market, would then actively promote a counterfeit market where the contents of cigarettes are entirely unknown?

Who but the mentally disturbed would set out – intentionally – to “denormalize” a sizeable group of the population (smokers) through fraudulent means – a constant lying under the pretense of “science and scholarship”, to make this “target” group appear as not fit for normal society, a “threat” to all, to be relegated to the margins, to be sneered at, looked down upon?

JohnB said...

Who but the mentally disturbed would assume guardianship of “the children” - as the tyrannical typically do? Children present a “blank slate” where the fanatics can shape the children’s thinking in the fanatics’ deranged perspective, brainwashing them in antismoking propaganda from an early age a là Temperance/Eugenics Groups of early 20th century America or the Hitler Youth. Who but the mentally disturbed would “teach” children that their 30-something (or any age for that matter) smoking parents are liable to drop dead at any moment from smoking and that the children are being “killed” by ambient tobacco smoke?

In one school, the very word “cigarette” is verboten:

Who but the mentally disturbed would “teach” children that having “nicotine addict” parents is shameful? It is the constant [fake] moralizers that are the abusers of children. And what the rabid zealots consider as “the children” is constantly morphing into greater perversity. Consider this sanctimony from the self-absorbed zealot par excellence, Stan Glantz, concerning university-wide smoking bans directed at adults:

If young people can stop smoking, or never start smoking, before they reach their late 20s, they will be unlikely to ever develop the habit as older adults, said Dr. Stanton

Glantz, director of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

"Virtually nobody starts smoking after age 24 or 25," Glantz said. "If you can get people through the college ages and a little bit past, and they've either not started or they've stopped, then they're pretty well taken care of."

Who but the mentally disturbed (and greedy) would protect their Pharma funders by calling for bans on all the competition for potential smoking “substitutes” (chewing tobacco, snus, e-cigarettes) giving Pharma a monopoly for its [useless] smoking cessation wares?

Who but the mentally disturbed would put antismokers – haters of smoke/smoking/smokers – in charge of tobacco and not expect catastrophe….. or even recognize the pathway to catastrophe as it’s occurring?

At every turn in this twisted antismoking saga, there has been constant self-serving deception. There is no accountability on the part of the “society-fixer” fanatics: They have made themselves a law unto themselves. In their own contorted, cultic fantasy-world are the fanatics/zealots/extremists always right, never wrong. Only more troubling than the antismoker fanatics is the medically-dominated Public Health framework that has legitimized them. It’s here that the seriously mentally disturbed – a là eugenics – reside: They have all sorts of divisive control plans, far beyond antismoking, for the public. Public Health has once again been hijacked by the medically-aligned, peddling their deranged physicalist world view and perverse definition of health. Public Health is once again being used for deranged ideology, financial profit and oppression. Public Health, from the WHO through to national health bureaucracies, has destabilized countries around the world, bringing them progressively under sick, central control. It is robber bureaucrats, robber politicians, robber “advisors”, robber hangers-on. And it’s more than money that they’re robbing.

JohnB said...

Does it matter whether we refer to these fanatics as mentally disturbed or liars or incompetent or greedy or Statists or propagandists? The overriding fact is that they have done a massive con job on the global public, seriously messing with people’s minds on a mass scale. There isn’t too much that isn’t a lie…. a manipulation. And they function in a contrived system that allows them to bypass critical scrutiny and accountability.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Wonderful points both in the article and the comments. I'd like to focus on two things in particular:

1) Of course, John B's excellent notes about the "mentally disturbed." It ties in beautifully with Stephanie Stahl's analysis of ASDS (AntiSmokers' Dysfunction Syndrome) at:

There *IS* a real problem out there and the antismoking movement has most definitely attracted a far greater than random sampling of the mentally disturbed, of a number of varieties, to its ranks while also putting them in positions of power. I've often offered the observation that the activist and professional Antismokers are like inmates of an insane asylum who've escaped and are out dancing in the daisy fields, while also bemoaning the fact that they've convince so many, otherwise quite normal, people to join them in their dance instead of putting them back inside where they belong.


2) Proglodyte's surprise that the trend has shown few signs (except perhaps in the last two years) of slowing down in absolute numbers despite the decrease in the base number of pubs. Anyone out there with some skills to graph the data in a few other ways, perhaps looking at such things as the changing rate of closures (which should show the harm even MORE clearly)and the rate of closures after subtracting the counterbalance of rate of new openings?

I believe the final figures would produce a more true and telling picture of the *change* that has probably overtaken the pub industry. While the absolute number of pubs may have gone from about 70,000 down to 50,000 there's more to the story: How many of those 50,000 are actually what Brits would have considered to be "Classic British Pubs" thirty years ago? Here in America in the 80s we began seeing something that bar-lovers liked to call "fern bars" -- bars that weren't REALLY bars, but were more fancified, polite places for dignified yuppie types to stop into for a vegetarian sandwich and a glass of upscale chablis or, perhaps on a wild day, even a hard-liquor drink like a margarita or mimosa.

I'd guess that a good number of those 50,000 remaining pubs now have ferns hanging in them and their new owners would probably be horrified at the thought of allowing smoking in their establishments. However, that says nothing at all about what would be desired by the portion of the British public that would greatly enjoy socializing in the "classic" pub atmosphere if once again given the legal opportunity to do so. The social and economic benefits, particularly when multiplier effects are taken into account, could conceivably, all by themselves, pull the UK back on a decent economic track.

It'd be an interesting social experiment, no?


Fredrik Eich said...

So as many pubs have closed in the first five years after the smoking ban as did in the two decades before the smoking ban

Is that right?

Michael J. McFadden said...

Fredrik, Yep. Looks tha way. About a 400% increase in closure rate.


proglodyte said...

Pubs have tried to reinvent themselves as restaurants. Many have failed to attract the predicted clientèle because this group was already catered for by low/mid market restaurants. Indeed, the reinvention thing is a bit misleading, given that most pubs offered cheapish food pre ban anyway. Fact is, this market was already saturated, particularly in urban areas. It's almost as if the trade didn't/doesn't understand its own shrinking customer base and has buried its head in the sand re the ban. As indeed ASH et al don't really understand smokers, nor pubs. It all boils to this - the stick is mightier than the shrivelled carrot. No contest.

James Burr said...

Doesn't the FCTC actually have in its various sections a bit about it being illegal to suggest that smoking bans cause economic damage as well as a bit that says, "No evidence about the dangers of secondhand smoke" can be considered (basically making it illegal to suggest that it's all bollocks)? This would certainly explain both Government and Media reluctance to ever say anything about the Ban, no matter how eye-bleedingly obvious it is.

Junican said...

Cambridge Dictionary:



• (informal: psycho) someone who is very mentally ill and dangerous

• (specialized in psychology) a person who has no feeling for other people, does not think about the future and does not feel bad about anything they have done in the past.

What the definition leaves out is "a determination to get one's own way whatever the cost"

Andy Martin said...

Great article, Christopher. Funny, in the US we play the no smoking game too. It goes like this: I call a favorite restaurant to ask if their smoking lounge is still open. When they tell me, smugly, that they have closed it, I go somewhere else. So, the bars and restaurants here that are enlightened enough to still allow smoking (within the onerous laws, of course) do the most business. Breaks my heart though to think of these great English institutions called pubs that have to close because of the punks who just can't resist controlling others' lives. I imagine those are the same people who will serve as the concierge and waitstaff in hell--so, no worries, I won't have to deal with them for an eternity.

J Cooper said...

Interesting theory - however looking at the general trend of the supplied graph, it has been on a downward trend for many many years.

The graph indicates the recession only lasted for a couple of years, however the effects are still being felt now.

I would be more interested in seeing what caused the buck in the general trend in the 1990s.

I have no doubt the ban may have had some impact, but the recession with increased unemployment, job insecurity etc has had a greater impact to myself and friends etc than the inability for members of the group being able to light up.

Michael J. McFadden said...

JCooper, you say "Interesting theory - however... it has been on a downward trend for many many years ... recession... job insecurity.. "

At least you didn't bring in "supermarket pricing."

JCooper, I don't know your background in this discussion area, but you are offering the standard, but very weak, even outright incorrect and misleading argument supporting smoking bans as not having a bad economic effect on pubs.

The particular graph Chis chose to use is not as strong as one in a different format might be. If you calculate pub losses in four year periods: four after the ban and groups of four before it, you'll see percentage-of-pub-total drops of roughly* the following sizes starting in 1980:


Earlier drops incorporated two significant recessions, neither of which had anywhere near the sort of effect that we see in the post-ban drop. And while I haven't tried pulling the figures for it, a *very* quick eyeballing would indicate that the ban effect would be even STRONGER if a three year post-ban period was used as a basis. And, moving beyond simple numbers a bit, *IF* (and I'm aware this is highly speculative) some of the immediately previous .8% drop was due to a number of long-time pub-owners closing in rightful anticipation of what a ban would do to their life's business, *THEN* the 3% annual post ban drop might have been even larger while the period just prior to it might have appeared even healthier.

Any attempt to significantly blame the UK pub closures on ANYTHING other than the smoking ban seems, to me at least, quite likely to be a spurious and deliberately misleading argument put forth by someone who either has a vested interest or who has been taken in by those with such interests.

Especially when such a "wrap up" observation appears on a respected and high profile blog whose last entry took place a year and a half earlier -- a trick I've seen some American Antismokers play in the past.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains" <= my only arguable vested interest -- which didn't exist for the first 20 years I was in this fight.

* Note: my figures were just done by eyeballing the graph. You're welcome to check them, but I think they're quite close enough for the point being made.