THE smoking ban came into force in England on July 1, 2007, and three months later, the legal age at which people could buy tobacco was raised to 18.
The ban covers virtually all enclosed public spaces, from bars and restaurants to shopping arcades and even company cars. There is virtually total compliance.
The local council monitors and enforces the regulations and also has the potential to impose a statutory fine or take the matter to court.
Statutory fines for individuals and premises managers are £50 and £200 respectively and the maximum court fine is £200/£1,000 respectively.
There is also a maximum court fine of £2,500 for failing to stop someone smoking. The number of smokers in the UK has fallen by 400,000 since the ban was enforced, with around 2½ billion less cigarettes smoked than during the previous year.
There has also been a significant impact on the licensed premises in the wake of the ban. A survey carried out by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), showed that 74% of landlords felt that the ban was bad for trade, with 47% directly attributing it to staff redundancies.
Another survey carried out by ‘Theme’ in July and August this year found that at best, there was a mixed reaction to the ban.
Its results highlighted an almost three-way equal split between positive trading impact, negative and no discernible change.
It is certainly a fact that 175 million fewer pints were sold in the nine month period from the start of the ban. But, it would be naïve to attribute this decline to just one cause.
Other explanations include the poor summer weather both this year and last, cheaper supermarket ‘booze,’ the raising of the age limit for tobacco sales, the increase in taxes on both alcohol and tobacco, current government consultation on the removal of vending machines, the availability or otherwise of smoking shelters and, of course, the traditional arguments of changes in circuits or competition.
The installation of smoking shelters is also proving problematic and, in many cases, costly. Heating costs are up as a result of doors being left open, many urban premises often do not have the space to install one and there are a range of views from councils as to whether a shelter is suitable for smoking purposes or indeed whether planning permission is required.
Owners should always check with their local authority prior to expending money. The venues least affected by the smoking ban appear to be those that cater for 18-35 year olds, as this age group is much more likely to visit numerous places over an evening and can thus fuel their habit between venues. The most affected, reportedly, are the premises that have traditionally catered for the male over 50 years old – so the social or workingmen’s clubs.
But as mentioned elsewhere in this supplement, the smoking ban may allow you to claim a rates reduction.
Anthony Tubbs, Surveyor, Licensed and Leisure Department, Sanderson Weatherall (firstname.lastname@example.org)