I came across someone called Chris Harris on Facebook today. He was saying that nothing had replaced his local pub since the smoking ban in July 2007. I pointed him towards my Escape Velocity post of a few days back.
That’s quite a detailed snapshot of life in 2007. Let’s suppose that all UK pubs had 15 evening customers, of whom 6 were smokers. There were about 60,000 pubs in the UK in 2007 (maybe more), so they had a total of about a million customers every evening. If after the smoking ban 4 out of every 6 smokers stopped going, then that’s 4 times 60,000, or 240,000 fewer evening customers.
But he was an evening pub-goer. I was an afternoon pub-goer. The pubs were quieter in the afternoons. But I reckon they still had on average 5 or 6 customers even in the afternoon. After the ban, there’d often be just one customer – me.
The pubs are still like this in the afternoons. I quite often go into a pub in the afternoon, and find I’m the only customer. So it looks to me like there was a loss of 5 afternoon customers. In 60,000 pubs, that’s 300,000 afternoon customers.
So the total loss of custom was 300,000 afternoon customers plus 240,000 evening customers, or 540,000 customers. Not all of these would have been smokers. Maybe 400,000 smokers.
So that’s about 400,000 smokers in the UK who, like Chris Harris, lost something irreplaceable on 1 July 2007.
It’s a ballpark figure, of course. It could easily be half that number, or twice that number.
There are 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK, and if these 400,000 smokers are distributed evenly (as they probably are), that’s 615 voters per constituency. The average number of voters per constituency in the UK is about 70,000. So they’re less than 1% of the vote.
I was living in Devon in 2007, in the safe Conservative constituency of Tiverton & Honiton. And my complaints to my MP about the smoking ban fell on deaf ears. But in marginal constituencies like Hereford & Herefordshire South, where I now live, those 615 votes might make all the difference between winning and losing. Perhaps that’s why my Herefordshire Conservative MP seems to be rather more amenable to smokers than my Devon MP?
Hmmm… I’m now wondering whether to create a Herefordshire Smokers website, with the aim of attracting 615 members. We’ll have a quarterly newsletter. And we’ll seek and give advice on candidates who’ll stick up for smokers. We’ll invite guest articles from Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem parliamentary and council candidates. We’d keep them informed of our deliberations. We’ll become a political presence.