I joined TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson and other celebs in pulling pints at the Duke of Buckingham pub near Buckingham Palace yesterday, to celebrate the launch of a new campaign – Save our Pubs and Clubs.
It seems that pubs are closing at the rate of 50 a week, and one of the things that is doing in this normally recession-proof industry is the smoking ban that has been in place for two years. People who would once go out to the pub for a drink and a cigarette now load up at the supermarket, it seems, and go home and fill the family home with fumes. I'd have thought it would have been better all round for them to be out of sight of the kids, in an air-conditioned pub, with a landlord telling them if they're a bit the worse for wear. The very worst thing is to drive smokers out on to the streets, where the local authority has to clear up the cigarette butts, and where kids can see them happily smoking. Those are the daft, unintended consequences of the blanket ban.
The new campaign's leaders say we should have something more like Spain. Smoking there is allowed in designated smoking rooms, or landlords can opt to have their whole premises made 'smoking' or 'non-smoking', so you know what you're in for. I'd certainly have no problem going into a pub with a designated smoking room and the latest high-tech air filtration. Quite probably, in our city centres at least, the air would be cleaner inside than it would be on the street.
The campaign has cross-party support, with Greg Knight (Conservative), David Clelland (Labour), and even Nigel Farage (UKIP) all there at the launch event. They've got cool things like beermats and t-shirts declaring the message. Visit www.amendthesmokingban.com to find out more.