Back when the UK smoking ban was being discussed, antismoking zealots assured worried pub landlords that when the vile smokers had at last been kicked out of the pubs, there would be a rush of grateful non-smokers to take their place. It didn’t actually happen, and UK pubs have been closing in droves ever since.
I’d like to consider the mathematics of this a bit. In the UK, about 20% – 25% of adults are smokers (nobody has any idea what the exact number is, but nevermind). Let’s call it 20% or 0.20. And that means that the percentage of non-smokers is 80% or 0.80. And if Fs = 0.20 is the fraction of smokers and they spend Cs on drinks, and Fns = 0.80 is the fraction of non-smokers and they spend Cns, and they both spent the same on drinks in pubs, so Cns = Cs , then prior to the smoking ban, assuming net pub spending = 1:
Fs .Cs+ Fns.Cns = 1 —( 1 )
And so Cs = Cns = 1.
And then let’s suppose that, after the ban comes into force, smoker spending falls to 0.7 of its previous value of 1, as they shiver outside. Then if Cns remains equal to 1.0, and Cs falls to 0.7, equation (1) becomes
0.2 . 0.7 + 0.8 . 1.0 = 0.94 , or 94% of its former value, and spending has fallen by 6%. [correction by BrianB]
But let’s suppose that grateful non-smokers respond to the smoking ban by boosting their spending from 1.0 to 1.25. Then equation (1) becomes
0.2 . 0.7 + 0.8 . 1.25 = 1.14, or 114% of its former value, and pub spending has risen by 14%.
So if UK non-smokers raised their pub spending enough, they could have more than compensated for the loss of the smokers from the pubs. Pub businesses could have boomed. But, in the event, pubs started closing in droves. 10% or more of UK pubs have closed since 2007. So clearly non-smokers didn’t spend 25% more in pubs. They maybe only increased their pub spending by 5% (or less). So equation (1) probably looks like
0.2 . 0.7 + 0.8 . 1.05 = 0.98, or a 2% fall in spending in pubs.
Assuming that, after a smoking ban comes into force, smoker spending drops to 0.7 of its former level, and non-smoker spending rises to 1.05 of its former level, then in the UK with 20% smoking prevalence, this results in a 2% fall in pub trade, and the closure of numerous pubs.
So what happens in San Francisco, California, using the same figures, when smoking bans are brought in? In SF, to the best of my knowledge, smoking prevalence is about 10% or 0.1. Using equation (1) we get
0.1 . 0.7 + 0.9 . 1.05 = 1.015, or a 1.5% increase in pub spending.
No wonder they keep banning smokers from everywhere in SF: it boosts pub trade!
In the UK, we’ve just found out that the same changes in spending result in a 2% fall in pub spending. So what happens in Bulgaria, with 40% smoking prevalence? Using equation (1) we get
0.4 . 0.7 + 0.6 . 1.05 = 0.91, or a 9% fall in trade.
So while pub smoking bans in San Francisco, with a 10% smoking prevalence, actually boost pub trade, in the UK with a 20% smoking prevalence, the same bans depress pub trade by 2%, and in Bulgaria they depress pub trade by nearly 10%. No wonder there’s been near-anarchy in Bulgaria since their smoking ban last year.
It also explains why in San Francisco, smoking bans are getting more and more draconian, with smokers being fined $200 (or so I’ve heard) for smoking outside on the street. It’s because it’s good for business in near-smoker-free SF to clear out all the smokers.
But while these one-size-fits-all policies suit some people, they don’t suit everybody. And they don’t suit Bulgaria at all. And most probably Turkey and Syria and Lebanon even less, with 50%+ male smoking prevalence.
Another way to look at these figures is to ask, assuming that non-smokers post-ban spending levels are 1.05 of their pre-ban levels, and smokers post-ban spending levels are 0.7 of their pre-ban levels: what percentage of pre-ban smoking customers in your pub would have helped you ride out the smoking ban?
Using equation (1) yet again, with Cs = 0.7, and Cns = 1.05
Fs . 0.7 + Fns . 1.05 = 1
We know that Fs + Fns = 1, so Fns = 1 – Fs, and so
Fs . 0.7 + (1-Fs) . 1.05 = 1, and so
Fs = 0.05 /0.35 = 0.14 or 14%.
So if only 14% of your pub customers were smokers prior to 2007, you’d experience no loss of trade. But in many cases UK pubs said that 50% or even 90% of their customers were smokers. Such pubs were doomed to close their doors.
Not that antismokers gave a damn. The antismokers were probably anti-alcohol as well, and were glad to see lots of pubs close.