Monday, December 10, 2007

Saturday night

I went to the pub on Saturday; nothing remarkable about that except for the snapshot it gives of the effect of legislation. Over the more than 25 years I have frequented the place it has never been one of those boozers you left early, that is until the licensing laws were changed and hours were extended. Then, all of a sudden, everybody started going home at around the old legal closing time. Late drinking had lost its appeal. Now many are not coming at all. The smoking ban has coincided with cold weather and so the pub is empty for much of the time. The family that run it are worried about how long they can stay in business. It is an old, small pub; a cosy social institution.

There is no doubting the overwhelming evidence on smoking and health, but such gems of British life are now being squeezed by the smoking ban on one hand and by cheap supermarket drink on the other. The big bars will continue to prosper but the ban has accelerated the decline of the traditional local. Even as a non-smoker who prefers a smoke-free environment, I wish that the protection of livelihoods had been considered as well as the protection of health. And smokers now have another health risk - exposure. Glad I never started.

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