Please refrain from smoking

The impact of the smoking ban – due to come into effect in England on 1 July 2007 – may not be as devastating as first thought.

Whilst the fact that more than 50% of regular users of pubs are smokers is certainly a cause for worry, the bans do not seem to affect trade as adversely as this might suggest, according to Key Note market intelligence. Public Houses, a new market report, indicates that the smoking ban took effect in Scotland in March 2006 did not have as bad an impact as once feared, Scottish pubs are attracting more non-smokers. Outdoor smoking areas – in the summer at least – can be sociable for drinkers.
The real benefit of the smoking bans will be to drive up sales of food even further. Since 1990, the share of average pub turnover taken by food and soft drinks has risen from under 10% to nearly 25%. In the 493 Scottish pubs owned by Punch Taverns, the experience has been higher sales of food, but ‘some declines’ in income from beer and fruit machines. It appears that the smaller pubs without the ability to offer food are likely to suffer the most.
⣢ Key Note’s survey found that a complete smoking ban in pubs was backed by 42.1% of respondents.
⣢ More than 40% of adults wanted to see more control over underage and binge drinking. Research for the Public Houses report reveals that consumer usage of pubs has not changed dramatically, even since the introduction of the new Licensing Act allowing longer opening hours. Only 8.8% of the survey respondents said that they are interested in later or more flexible pub hours. Indeed, in general terms, the public prefer a traditional type of pub and the threat of ’24-hour drinking’ never materialised. This suggests that pub usage may again find equilibrium in the wake of the smoking bans.
The eventual impact of smoking bans is yet to be seen. Looking at Scotland as a template, many pubs did surprisingly well in summer and autumn 2006, but then suffered during the winter, when smokers were forced to smoke outside in cold, wet weather. The impact, therefore, on the rest of the UK is unlikely to be confirmed until 2008.

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