The Smoking Ban - Pub and Pop Politics

When the smoke machine goes off, will everyone run in to light up disguised?<br/>

Feature by Melissa Tompson | 15 Feb 2006

Most already realise that the penalty facing them if they light up in a pub or club is £50, with the premises facing a £200 fine for each offence. If you didn't know by now, this marauding legislation comes into effect on March 26.

Leaving aside the question of civil liberties for a moment, most accept that Scotland's smoking ban could make everyone a lot healthier. The opinions printed, noted, then discussed surrounding personal and public health rights are now sounding well rehearsed, but has anyone got it straight how this is going to change the average night out?

For both smokers and non-smokers, Scotland's ban looks set to despoil the world of gigs, clubs, pubs and coffee/tea houses. Expensive ventilations system or not, all public places must comply with the ban, but none will be forced to provide outdoor areas with cosy heat lamps sheltered by giant umbrellas.

Premises that don't have such 'smokeooteries' or beer gardens will surely suffer, since a third of Scots smoke. The worst affected will be the small and independently owned traditional pubs, rather than family-orientated chains or city centre style bars who can afford to make the necessary alterations; people will stay away from traditional pubs lacking outdoor spaces, and if the remaining regulars are too stubborn to quit, the pub could be fined and its booze license swiftly reviewed. Many such places form the social hub of small communities and their closure would be devastating. Even for city cats, this sounds like a rubbish state of affairs – who doesn't like a merry evening away from the glossy bright lights of town in a 'proper' pub?

For non-smoking drinkers with smoking friends there could be a social divide created on a night out – as the non-smokers are left inside, while the smokers go outside to gossip and mingle. Then what of 'social smokers'? Do they stay inside with the non-smokers, or outside with the smokers? And what if your favourite bar has no 'smokeooterie'? In a group of smokers, one non-smoker could be left with all the drinks (no drinking on the streets mind!) or on the flipside one lone smoker stuck on the cold streets like an outcast. Will the pavement instead of the bar become the social hub of the pub?

For live music venues and clubs, hopefully the entertainment inside will be a bigger crowd-puller than the pavement, but when people do need to go outside to smoke one of the worst jobs in winter becomes even harder - security. Some venues have a policy of searching everyone who comes into a club, so every time they leave for a cig they need to be searched again, otherwise there will be increased opportunities to take in drugs or weapons; not cool. Also trying to stop someone at a gig smoking in the middle of a mosh pit? Good luck.

Pub regulars may be aware of the ban, but it'll most likely take a while until steamin' people learn not to light up in clubs or on the dance floor. When the smoke machine goes off, will everyone run in to light up disguised? Also, without smoke, imagine sweat and booze smells circulating unmasked!

All this disruption to the average night out for something that isn't actually illegal. We'll get the hang of it eventually, but there might be a few casualties along the way.