Monday, 11 January 2010

Pub talk: smoking bans

On Saturday I took shelter from the snow in the Shakespeare's Head pub on Kingsway. The first thing I noticed on entering was a proliferation of menus; this establishment is clearly geared up for feeding office workers and shoppers.

In this pub in 2003 I met my other half (for want of something better to call him - 'boyfriend' would make me sound like a Dick Emery character). I smoked liberally all evening, which didn't manage to put him off.

Of course, since the smoking ban in July 2007, now one cannot smoke in pubs in England. My mother says 'it's over, that period is over, finished'. The several centuries when we thought it was fine to smoke, even good for your health. And the few decades when we knew that it was bad for us, but recast the issue as a conflict between political freedom and 'health fascism'. It's over. No more smoking at work, in cinemas and theatres, on trains, tube and buses, in hospitals, or, even, in pubs. Like children, who have always had to sneak off to the back of the bikesheds, execept in the privacy/sanctity of their own home, even adults now must skulk about outside if they want to indulge their filthy habit.

On the whole, I think this is a good thing. I gave up smoking in 2004 (an event entirely connected to meeting 'my other half') but, before then, I had got used to being banished to my friends' gardens if I wanted to smoke, so I do see the other side of the problem.

Of course, such an enormous social change is going to have monumental effects, and the closure of many pubs is one of them, as smokers stock up on cheap booze at the supermarket and drink at home instead. The Lost Pubs Project suggests pubs are closing at the rate of 25 per month. It's not all down to the smoking ban, of course, but that has had a big impact.

It's swings and roundabouts, isn't it? Now a middle-aged lady like myself can thoroughly enjoy an evening in a pub - if she can find one. The Shakespeare's Head is a Wetherspoon's; they concentrate on providing an extensive menu. I had a half of Frank Incensed, the Christmas ale from the Nethergate Brewery, with my supper. I liked it - but they aren't going to get rich from my custom! Maybe middle-aged ladies eating egg and chips and supping a half is not what pubs should be about, but I understand that, if that's what you want to do, it is still possible to get pissed in a pub - I've seen it done.

It's sad to see boarded-up London pubs, and every village definitely needs its pub, just as it needs its post office and school.

But fewer people dying of smoking-related diseases, as part of the shake-out from the extension of smoking bans, the downward pressure it exerts on the number of people smoking, has, in the long run, to be a good thing.

1 comment:

Rog T said...


Three posts in a day, all about pubs. Things must be bad