Smoking ban changes London pubs and earns mixed reactions

By Alisha Green

Smokers across England grumbled when a smoking ban took effect two years ago, and reactions to the law still vary between smokers and pub workers.

The smoking ban in England began July 1, 2007 in an effort to reduce air pollution and improve health conditions, according to the Smokefree England Web site.

The possibility of a decline in pub business was one major concern when the ban was implemented. Pubs were usually full of smokers, and some were worried the new rules would lead to decreased business if people could no longer go there to smoke.

The Wilmington ArmsAs a bartender at the Wilmington Arms pub in London, James Sross said he noticed a change in the ambiance of pubs after the smoking ban.

“It did change the atmosphere,” Sross said. “There’s something a bit romantic about the whole going into a smoky pub and sitting in the corner and chatting.”

Benny Lock, shift manager at the Wilmington Arms, agrees with the smoking ban, but said business has declined.

“The atmosphere’s definitely gone down a notch,” Lock said. “The pubs are a lot emptier. Now that people have to be outside to smoke, some of them just don’t come anymore, making the pubs emptier and taking away from the atmosphere.”

Working in pubs before the smoking ban was less pleasant though, according to Lock.

“I guess the best thing about it is being able to come home not smelling of smoke, even though I do smoke,” Lock said. “When you work in a pub the smoke gets in everything and it’s really horrible. At the same time I enjoy smoking in pubs, so there is a balance, but overall it’s been good I think.”

Sross, who is also a smoker, agreed that the working environment improved after the ban.

“There were times when I was working in the pub when the smoke would just get in your eyes,” Sross said. “You would walk out after a day at work with tears just screaming from your eyes, so I thought it was quite good from a working perspective, but when I’m in a pub I like to be able to smoke inside.”

Like many pub workers, Sross started smoking when he started working in pubs.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said. “When you walk around you smell the smoke anyway so you think you might as well take it up too. And it’s about being part of the group. Most people in the pub smoked already too.”

Workers in the pub benefit from the disappearance of smoke inside their work buildings, but as smokers themselves, they also have to deal with the annoyances of the ban when they are patrons who want to smoke inside.

Lock said he does not mind going outside to have his cigarette, but sometimes it can be awkward if one person in a group of friends does not smoke.

“It can be a bit annoying, but you have to deal with it,” he said.

Some smokers were annoyed and complained when the ban first took effect.

“The atmosphere has gone down a bit, but in terms of people’s health, which is obviously more important, I think it’s a good thing,” Lock said. “Even as a smoker, I don’t really like having a ton of smoke around where I am.”

Despite initial complaints from smokers and pub owners, they have generally come to accept the rule.

“Everyone treated it as what it is,” Lock said. “It’s a law, and if you break the law you’re going to get fined, so I think everyone’s respected it.”

Kiaron Long has been smoking since he was 12, but he agrees with the smoking ban and said it has had an absolutely positive impact. When the ban first took effect, people viewed it as an infringement on their civil liberties, Long said, but now it is generally accepted that people have to go outside when they want to smoke.

“You do mind when it’s pouring down with rain, but I understand why,” Long said. “It’s a necessary thing that you’ve got to do.”

The ban may have even had a positive result, Long pointed out.

“A lot of couples met for it,” Long said. “Everybody had to go outside, and it was an introduction. You met new people because you would all discuss the smoking ban, what could be done about it, and it was an introduction because it was a mutual topic.”

Like the pub workers, Long said he did not want to make non-smokers be exposed to an unhealthy habit.

“If you don’t smoke, and the whole world is full of smoke, you’re smoking yourself, so why should they suffer for your dirty habit?” Long said. “It’s a filthy habit. It’s a horrible addiction, and it’s very difficult to give up. Why should I impose my dirty habit on other people?”

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