International Social Impact Survey Update

Many of my readers will know that, a month or two back, some of us teamed up to conduct a survey of the social impact of smoking bans on smokers. We put together an English questionnaire, and have had that translated into several languages (Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and Greek), and made available in a printable form. We even have our own website. This is my compact English version of the questionnaire:

I’m hoping that all concerned are now out and about stacking up responses to the questionnaire in their various countries (which include the USA and Canada). The main thing we still don’t yet have is a way of entering the data online. The code for this is half-written, and I’m hoping that in a week or two it will be working.

Everyone is going to have their own approach to polling. Some people are polling friends and family, or colleagues at work. Others are out on the streets. My own method has been to head off on warm, sunny afternoons to one country pub or other, buy a drink, and approach anyone I see smoking to ask if they’d like to spend a minute filling in a survey of the social impact of smoking bans. This requires a little bit of cheerful boldness on my part, but I’m usually capable of it.

In general, the responses have been positive. Only a couple of people have turned me down so far. Smokers have been interested, and often quite vocal as well. I’ve been gratified that people find the questionnaire quite straightforward, and usually complete it within a minute or so.

The downside has been that warm, sunny afternoons are the quietest times for English pubs, and several times I’ve driven miles and found no smokers at all.

All the same, over the past month or so, I’ve managed to accrue almost 30 responses. And over the next couple of months (after which the survey will end), I’m hoping to bring the total up to 100. If all pollsters manage to get numbers like that, we’ll have a grand total of around 2000 responses – although I imagine that some people will get nowhere near that number.

My 30 responses don’t constitute much of a survey in themselves, but the results have been quite interesting all the same.

Something like 70% of smokers report that they aren’t greatly affected by the smoking ban. These people report few negative impacts. For them, life has carried on much as before.

But for about 30% of smokers, there have been considerable impacts. These are the people who tick several places – pubs, workplaces, etc. – where the ban adversely affects them, and who also tick the ‘hardly ever’ or ‘much less’ or ‘much worse’ boxes. I’m a bit surprised to find so many of these. Before the survey began, I estimated that maybe only 10% of smokers were badly impacted by the UK smoking ban: it’s beginning to look like it may be a lot more. I’m particularly surprised because I know that many smokers (e.g. quite a few of my readers and commenters) never go to pubs at all now, not even to sit outside on sunny days. In fact, I don’t know how to find such smokers (except online).

But perhaps the most surprising thing is what’s not being said. And what most of my respondents are not saying is that they the smoking ban has had positive consequences for them. Hardly anyone is saying that they go to pubs and cafes more, or see more of their friends and family. The responses generally range from neutral to strongly negative.

There have been one or two positive responses though. One young lady, after ticking all the neutral boxes, remarked, “I quite like the ban: it’s been so much more sociable outside since the ban.”

Since I’m focusing on smokers, I have only got one non-smoker’s response. Surprisingly, he was strongly opposed to the ban. He didn’t like to have to go outside to be with his smoking pals. But I’m sure he isn’t representative of most non-smokers. Or maybe he is? Perhaps I should ask more of them.

But it’s early days, and my 30 responses don’t really mean very much. It will be very interesting to see what sort of picture emerges from the full survey. There may be striking differences from region to region, and country to country.

In many ways, it’s what people have to say (like the young lady above) that is almost as interesting as the boxes they tick. One middle aged man remarked that the smoking ban had “no impact whatsoever” on him, and duly ticked the appropriate boxes – but at the time he and his friends were standing outside a pub, furiously puffing away at cigarettes, prior to entering to have lunch inside. Wasn’t that an impact? Before the ban, they would have smoked inside, wouldn’t they?

Anyway, I’m hoping that a few of the other pollsters will read all this, and be encouraged to do more polling. And that they will report back to me, either here or on the other blog or by email) to let me know how it’s been going at their end, how many completed questionnaires they’ve got, what difficulties (if any) they’re encountering, and so on. It would help me to get at least a vague idea how it’s all going.

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18 Responses to International Social Impact Survey Update

  1. Mr A says:

    Frank it’s worse than that, even. By trawling pubs for respondents you’re by definition more likely to find smokers for whom the ban is less of a problem. I used to go to the pub at least four times a week. Now I go maybe once every 3 months or so, if that. You won’t find people like me (or the others who have stopped going, with the result of massive pub closures) using that methodology.

    Whatever result you get it will be, by definition, a best case, rosiest scenario. If the results are already looking surprising, it shows how truly negative the ban has been.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Now I go maybe once every 3 months or so, if that.

      But if there are millions of people like that, the chances are that I will encounter a few of them, unless they’re like Lecroix below, who never bars.

      How do you find people like him?

      I realise I’m looking at the tip of an iceberg, but that’s because I can’t see underwater. How does one look underwater?

  2. lecroixkwdjer says:

    Hello Frank. I have 6 completed questionnaires. I will have about 10 soon, when I meet with some people at home. I expect another 5 or more at a family gathering. Three people I polled online. I chose them because I know they smoke (actually one does not) but mainly because the seem not to be actively fighting the ban. I chose three more, again smokers, that I know have adapted to the ban and frown upon my activism. They did not respond and I did not insist. There are many others I know online, but they are active against the ban and I thought polling them would just get me the answers I want (hope for). Maybe I am being biased by trying not to be biased. I have not looked at the answers and I will try my best to enter the data (when possible) without looking at who answered what. Their answers might affect the way I see them. That’s another consecuence of the ban. I judge people on their opinion about the ban. Very harsly.

    My goal is still 25 questionnaires, but as you know, I am not social at all now. I do not go to bars or restaurants, ever. I do not even want to be seen standing close to a bar, lest I can be confused with a customer. I only meet people at home, maybe once a month at the most now.

    I have to agree with you and Mr A. Smokers that have a strong problem with the ban, are harder to find, because they are not visible anymore. I am one of them.

  3. Frank Davis says:

    That’s another consecuence of the ban. I judge people on their opinion about the ban. Very harsly.

    That’s also true of me. I don’t want to know people who like or accept the ban. I don’t want to know people who swallow that sort of nonsense. This is part of the reason why I’ve lost quite a few friends.

    But in the context of the survey, I’m not talking to people I know (or know at all well). I’m not that bothered what they think. It’s not so personal. So I can listen to them with a detachment that I couldn’t with my former friends. I’m even rather hoping that I encounter some real antismokers (I haven’t found one yet).

    I’m not sure where in Spain you live, but I’ll bet there are plenty of people smoking on the streets. When I was last in Barcelona, I remember gazing in admiration at an old man walking along with a big cigar. Would you not feel able to approach such complete strangers?

    I haven’t done this yet myself. One of the reasons I’ve restricted myself to pub gardens is because people sitting in them are relaxing and talking and being sociable, and are in many senses open to conversations (such as, with me). Someone who is out on the street is very often going to be doing something – e.g. shopping. Such people are far less available. What I might do is to approach people who are sitting somewhere (e.g. a park bench). In this respect, the speed with which this survey can be carried out should prove very helpful.

    • lecroixkwdjer says:

      I now live in Northwestern Spain, maybe about 200 miles from where you liked to vacation before the ban. You are very right and finding people smoking as one walks by is easy. Everybody smokes. I do not know where tobacco control gets its figures, but people who smoke are not just 30%. At least now where I live. Everybody smokes. Except my girlfriend. These things happen :)

      No, unfortunately I do not feel I can approach them and ask for a minute of their time. I would in a bar, but I never go to bars anymore, so I am left with limited options. Still, I am committed to my goal of 25 questionnaires and I hope my limited contribution can be of help.

      • reinholdfrombavaria says:

        You shouldn’t walk alone, Lecroix.
        If you got a companion, walk with him or her, then it’s not only easy, it’s real fun.
        Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

        • lecroixkwdjer says:

          You are right reinholdfrombavaria, and my girlfriend is helping me with the polling. She has presented the questionnaire to her parents (they both smoke). In that, the questionnaire seems to have been more informative than me. A few months back she was in hospital and her parents and I took turns going outside to smoke. When they read in the questionnaire about smoking being banned outside hospitals, they did not quite understand the question. Her mother said: that’s outside, that’s not banned. I had to explain to her that in Spain it is banned and that what we were doing by the hospital while her daughter was in surgery, was indeed illegal this days. For the first time since the ban, I saw a hint of indignation on her face. Finally.

  4. harleyrider1978 says:

    Yo Frank your making the big time!

    Smoking Ban Inspector Stripped Naked in Belgium
    (July 3, 2012) In the Belgian village Sivry Rance an inspector of the Department of Health was attacked by the customers of the Café de la poste and stripped naked . The man was controling the ban on smoking in bars.

    Albert D. (53) was, along with thirty other colleagues, responsible for the control of the entire Belgian territory. His inspection was unannounced and happened as always on a random list of catering businesses.

    Cafe de la Poste in the center of the village serves a daily special at noon but in the evening is frequented by a slightly rougher clientele: mostly members of the local Hell’s Angels. According to eyewitnesses, the inspector was stripped to his pants. Personal belongings were tossed way back in the barroom supported by some intense cheering.

    Afterwards the man was dropped in the forest and could find shelter in an old gamekeeper’s house , dressed in an old horse blanket, he managed to reach the local police station . The public prosecutor of Charleroi condammed this aggression and intimidation of a public official. The prosecution asks anyone who witnessed the incident to contact the police .


  5. Smoking Scot says:

    Been over the survey Walt mentioned yesterday. Quite sinister. They want to know the importance of peer support and how strongly we identify with “being a smoker”. That’s subtley extended to find out if we blame or don’t much like non-smokers. And if we see ourselves as “victims or persecuted”.

    It’s a stand alone on-line survey with no apparent attempt to publicise it. It has all the hallmarks of yet another survey that’s intended to be known only to them and theirs. In other words it’ll be dutifully completed by their drones to portray smokers as a group that’s largely hostile to the 75 to 80% who don’t.

    Similar to the block vote being constructed right now by CRUK on plain packs.

    Although I’ve pondered the WHY?? I’ve concluded that I cannot stoop to their levels of deception and left it at that. There will be a flamboyant press release at some point with no mention of drones, trolls or numbers involved.


    With regards to the ISIS survey. Given the validity of the first couple of comments plus what’s been pointed out by LI about the non-summer we’re having, may I suggest you allow your readers to participate by completing the form on-line?

    Perhaps allow that to run for 14 days and, if possible, allow comments. My suspicion is lots of us might be willing to say things that we’d prefer to avoid when faced with an anxious pollster.

    And leave the poll results available for public viewing (comments excluded). That’s something the other lot’ll never do.

    Perhaps you could do a widget so others could include it in their site or blog.

    • Frank Davis says:

      We probably will do something like this. But the problem with an online survey is that there’s no way of knowing whether those responding are smokers. The current survey we’re doing has the pollster identifying people as smokers – because they’re seen smoking -.

      I’ve also been thinking of maybe asking a few of my known commenters to fill in the survey. It would be very select.

      • Rose says:


        Please do, no one is likely to find me sitting outside a pub these days, whether I’m smoking at the time or not.

      • Smoking Scot says:

        Only chucked that in as a concept for you to mull as I would like to participate.

        The fact Rose likes your idea and tells you why speaks volumes.

        Many of your regulars are scattered everywhere and this is one of the few places they feel comfortable and can speak their mind.

        Suspect you’ll find many more would like to help out.

        Maybe other bloggers could do the same with (say) a half dozen of their known smoker commentators?

  6. Pingback: ISIS Survey Data Entry | Frank Davis

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