On September 19, the CEBR, a professional economics consultancy sent a letter to The Scotsman about the spurious claims made by the anti-tobacco industry, excerpted below (emphases mine):

An alliance of anti-smoking campaigners has attacked our work in your columns (Letters, 25 August) stating that we had predicted that “serving times following a display ban [for tobacco products] could double. It makes for great headlines – but it didn’t happen.” But the tobacco display ban for small shops, which are the main shops affected, does not come into force until April 2015. So it couldn’t have happened yet!

The anti-smoking campaigners are either unaware of this, which shows a culpable degree of ignorance, or are being extremely dishonest in attempting to mislead the public.

Anti-smoking campaigners have consistently tried to bury their heads in the sand about the economic effects of anti-smoking regulations.

In 2005, CEBR wrote a report which predicted that the smoking ban in pubs would cause sales to fall and thousands of pubs to close. The anti-­smoking campaigners tried to assure us that this wouldn’t happen – but it did

Anti-smoking campaigners (many of whom work for organisations that are well funded and with highly paid senior staff despite their charitable status) would do better to stop trying to smear and bully those who point out the practical implications of their proposals and instead use their energies to try to minimise those effects which are negative – and we would be happy to work with them if they do so.

Pubs have been closing in record numbers since July 2007. Although low performers were closing before that — mismanagement or natural attrition because of changing demographics — the smoking ban put paid to thousands more establishments which now stand boarded-up or have been demolished.

The Pub Curmudgeon carries a running total in his left-hand column of pub closures over the past six years. As I write in September, it is an astonishing 12,974.

‘So what?’ some will say. The issue is that pubs enabled people to gather after work or dinner to meet with neighbours and friends. Everyone could stay indoors — particularly important with our British weather — and enjoy themselves.

Some of us thought with the smoking ban that Tobacco Control would go away. However, it seems to get bigger and bolder, as the CEBR letter infers. The NHS has begun its second Stoptober campaign and, with that and pub closures in mind, I ran across this comment online:

If I could de-activise the ad for ‘Stoptober’ which has just appeared on my page here, I would. No choice though. It just comes up. Actually, I’m 78 and for reasons which have nothing to do with those unlovely zealots, I don’t smoke these days, but I wish they would mind their own business. Cannot some separate space be provided for people for whom tobacco provides a little peace of mind and yes, solace, in their lives and maybe in great sadness? I’m thinking especially of pubs – i.e. Smoke Rooms, remember them? That way the nostrils of the fastidious elite – as they see themselves – would not be offended, an elite which congratulates itself on not being ‘as other men are’. OK, no-one in my social circles smokes these days … If I still smoked I would not smoke in your presence. When you are absent why should you stop me from lighting a pipe and having a chat with an old friend in an old-fashioned pub?

Former pub-goers with smoking friends began having their own house parties, where everyone brought his own drinks. That goes some way towards preserving friendship and camaraderie, especially when smokers do not have to go outdoors.

However, as the above comment indicates, there are others who, for one reason or another, are not part of the ‘smoky-drinky’ house party scene. And it is here that the loneliness sets in, most acutely among the elderly.

Loneliness can be a greater killer than tobacco.

Around the time of the ban, Marketing Week (a print edition from June or July 2007) estimated that 65% of pubgoers were smokers, therefore, an important — if not essential — part of their market.

Nik Lowe at Oh what NOW! ran a poll asking if pubgoers would return if smoking rooms were reinstated. Sixty-two per cent of respondents replied ‘most certainly’. One of his readers noted that his results aligned with those in a recent Daily Mirror poll.

The Pub Curmudgeon also ran a poll. He asked readers to give their reasons for not visiting pubs. The top deterrent — accounting for 47% of the votes — was the inability to smoke indoors.

Therefore, even with high prices for a pint, people would return to the pub if they didn’t have to go outdoors to smoke.

The CEBR letter is right. I would go further and, even though not a pubgoer, ask whether it is time to repeal the ban in pubs and restaurants to allow either a smoking lounge or, better, leave it up to the publican (proprietor) to determine whether to make indoor provision for smokers.

This means that, contrary to the nonsense Tobacco Control spouts, the 2007 ban has not changed many former pubgoers’ natural behaviours of enjoying a smoke with a pint.

There was never any public groundswell for a total ban on smoking in pubs, only manufactured figures from Tobacco Control. We have seen since that they were completely wrong. Many publicans have lost their livelihoods as a result.

Job loss, like loneliness, can also impact health, often much more than tobacco.