To Smoke or Not to Smoke?
Some thoughts on the Smoking Ban
If you ask many club people why they think clubs are suffering so badly financially and losing members, many will simply say ‘it’s the smoking ban’. I hear it all the time as I visit clubs or talk to those involved in the club movement. Every time a club closes these days, this is what you might hear as the single most important factor for the demise of clubs. The fact that you can no longer sit and smoke a cigarette with a pint, whilst watching a games match in a club, chatting with friends, having a game of snooker or bingo, is simply a law too far for many people. Having to stand outside on the streets in cold, wet, windy weather is not a welcome prospect for many smokers, especially those in their senior years and women, some of whom may feel threatened on the streets. Thousands have voted with their feet, it appears, and decided to stay at home instead, buying cheap supermarket drink and having nights in with the freedom to smoke with friends and family.
Since the blanket smoking ban in public and enclosed spaces was brought in back in July 2007, the arguments have raged with those on one side saying the ban is killing not only club life but helping to shut down pubs, bingo halls and other forms of social life especially activities related to the working classes. Figures released by Freedom to Choose, a pro-choice campaign group, indicate that around 80 clubs have shut down since the ban was brought in, around 2,000 pubs and approximately 60 bingo halls. (www.freedom2choose.info)
On the other side, government officials claim the ban has been largely successful, with people generally being healthier as a result, particularly those who were exposed to passive smoking by working in such places as pubs and clubs. They cite figures which prove the success of the ban and also point to more people giving up the nicotine habit as a result of not being able to smoke when and where they like. The issue of human rights is raised by both sides- the freedom to smoke and the freedom to breathe air that hasn’t been polluted by nicotine.
Those arguing on all sides, pro- or anti- smoking, all have their information and viewpoints and it’s not so straightforward to draw conclusions after only just over a year of the ban being in place. Clearly many clubs were in trouble before the law was introduced, with other factors contributing to their decline, such as changes in social life with a more stay at home culture prevailing as well as the decline of traditional working class communities. Cheap supermarket booze is often cited as well and, increasingly in second half of 2008, the credit crunch. For many, however, it was the ban which became the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of many clubs, the ultimate factor that look sets to close down many more clubs in their view.
Clubs were meant to be immune from this ban in the planning stages of the law as they are private members clubs. Immunity from other laws can be seen looking back into history such as with the Equal Opportunities laws in the 1970s. CIU officials were promised that they would not be subject to the ban but could decide for themselves by consulting members and exercising local democracy. But at the last minute, everything changed and suddenly clubs were included in the law which meant hasty preparation of ‘smoker’s dens’ for many of the members. This, for many club members, was a betrayal by the Labour Party, the supposed Party of the working people.
This website cannot avoid raising the issue of the smoking ban because it is what many in club land are increasingly talking and arguing about. What are your views? Do you think that clubs should have been kept exempt from the regulations and been allowed to decide for themselves? Is it really the smoking ban that is finishing off struggling clubs, and if so, what on earth can be done? Is this government taking the ‘nanny state’ too far by telling us what we can and cannot do when we go out to socialise?
We hope to promote some discussion on this, whether you are pro- or anti- this ban.
September 7th 2008
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