A call has been made to reinstate smoking Karelia in Bristol’s pubs. Campaigners who say the ban on lighting up is threatening the future of traditional pubs will be taking their case for relaxing the law to Westminster tomorrow.
The Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign has prepared a report which claims traditional inner city pubs have suffered the most since the introduction of the ban four years ago this week.
Robert Hancocke, landlord of the Mardyke, in Hotwell Road, agrees and is among those backing the campaign. He said: “I run six pubs in the city and I have seen a big decline in the trade since the law came in.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’ve seen a lot of pubs close in the past few years. Obviously there are other factors involved but I would say the smoking ban is 90 per cent responsible.
“We haven’t got a garden area here so smokers have no choice but to go out on the street to smoke, which also creates problems.
“People are all outside and no one is in the pub. It is just ridiculous.”
On July 1, 2007 smoking at work, pubs, restaurants and public buildings was made illegal in a bid to cut deaths from secondhand smoke. It was also intended to help smokers to quit, and discourage children from taking up the habit.
But the Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign wants the law to be revised to allow separate ventilated smoking rooms in bars and clubs. They are holding a reception at the House of Commons tomorrow, lobbying MPs to garner support.
John Madden, executive officer of the Guild of Master Victuallers, said: “The smoking ban has put a huge strain on the traditional urban pub. Many regular customers decided to smoke and drink at home and very few non-smokers came in to replace them.
“The result has been the closure of thousands of pubs. Licensees have lost their livelihoods, bar staff have lost their jobs, and many communities have lost their social centre.”
The campaign is gathering speed as figures obtained by the Evening Post show that only 24 people have been fined for lighting up in licensed premises in Bristol since the smoking ban was brought in.
No smoking fines were issued until 2009, two years after the ban was introduced. In that year ten £50 fixed penalty notices were handed out by the council’s public health services team. These fines are reduced £30 if paid within 15 days. In the following 12 months between April 2010 to 2011, 14 fines were given out.
It is not known how many have been issued so far this financial year. A spokesman for the city council said: “All the above were issued because the recipients were observed to be in possession of lit tobacco in a prohibited place.”
There were no fines listed for businesses failing to display no-smoking signs, which is another requirement of the law. Doctors estimate second-hand smoke kills more than 600 people a year. In Bristol more than 7,500 smokers have been helped to kick the habit with support from NHS Bristol.