Rapidly approaching the 10th anniversary of the UK smoking ban, there seem to be a plethora of blog posts about it. This one, at Facts Do Matter, even includes a list of links to other ones at the end.

I noticed that I wasn’t on the list, and wondered why I wasn’t. And then I realised that I probably wasn’t on the list for the very simple reason that I hadn’t written one. In a way, that’s probably because I’m always writing about smoking bans. But also, right now, I’m trying to get the online Smoky Drinky Bar off the ground. And the Smoky Drinky Bar is a way round the smoking ban: instead of meeting up in real bars, smokers can meet up in virtual bars, and drink and smoke and chat to their hearts’ content.

I think there’s a huge potential market for such bars, made up of hundreds of millions of smokers excluded from real bars – because there are smoking bans almost everywhere in the world now. And the Smoky Drinky Bar is an early prototype of such bars.

When the Smoky Drinky Bar has a few people in it, it works very well. It is very much like a real bar. There’s an ebb and flow of conversation. And smokers have a ready topic of conversation in the form of the smoking bans that have driven them there.

The trouble is that, at the moment, the bar is mostly empty. And that’s partly because very few people know about it. And anyone who looks in is likely to look in, and then leave when they find nobody in it. And if they look in and find no-one in it enough times, they’re likely to stop coming back after a while.

My first idea for how to get round this problem was for me to do a sort of Happy Hour where I’d always be in the bar at 7 pm UK time (the sort of time of day I used to meet people in real bars). So I’ve been doing that for the past week, and have sometimes ended up staying in the bar all evening. The idea is to get a few people in the UK (and Europe) aware that they can at least talk to me when they walk into the Smoky Drinky Bar shortly after 7 pm.

But if I can do that at 7 pm UK time, I can’t do it for the rest of the 24 hours in the day, so the Smoky Drinky Bar is only really buzzing for about 3 hours in every 24 hours. So now Emily in Massachusetts has started doing a 7 pm EST Happy Hour. And Americans should be able to find the Smoky Drinky Bar buzzing a bit at a time more convenient to them.

The idea is to have points in time – islands – when humanity is present, and have customers navigate towards those points.

But I’m beginning to wonder whether a better idea would be for me to just enter the bar whenever I’m on my computer, and just carry on doing whatever I was doing or going to do. And some little bars actually work that way. You walk in and there’s nobody there, but if you cough or ring the little bell on the bar, someone will come scurrying out from a back room. Some shops are like that too.

So I think I may adopt a similar practice. For example I’m currently adapting my orbital simulation model to work out how many smokers are available in all the world’s time zones, and when they’re likely to want to visit bars like the Smoky Drinky Bar. So today I’ll enter the bar at some point in time, and then carry on writing the code on another computer. Anyone who walks into the bar will have to cough, or call out “Frank, are you there, you bastard?” With luck I’ll hear, and come scurrying out from my back room. In fact, I may have the webcam pointing at me while I’m writing the code.

It would require multi-tasking. I might even carry on writing the code, while chatting.

A couple of nights back, Twenty Rothmans was doing some ironing in the Smoky Drinky Bar until he decided that ironing wasn’t something you should do in a pub. But why not do the ironing as you chat? Or programme computers? Or cook and eat food? Do all these separate activities have to be given their own assigned time slots? Can’t some of them be done simultaneously?

So my suggestion to visitors to the Smoky Drinky Bar is to enter it, and then carry on doing what they were doing, which might be cooking, eating, reading a book, watching TV, while keeping one eye on the Smoky Drinky Bar, only exiting it when you’re no longer available to chat, because you’re going to sleep, or going out, or doing something that requires your full attention.

The Smoky Drinky Bar is highly experimental. Maybe it’ll evolve in all sorts of ways. Maybe some people will meet up in it for short periods. Maybe some people will sit quietly in it all day, saying nothing. Who knows?

I’ll be back on the bar at 7 pm UK time tonight. But this time I may try multi-tasking, and carry on programming my computer as I talk. I hope nobody will think I’m being rude.

About Frank Davis

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24 Responses to Multi-Tasking

  1. Pingback: The Smoking Ban, 10 Years On | Facts Do Matter

  2. Mark Jarratt, Broome, W Australia says:

    Well done Frank – you are an inspiration. I am in the hot tropics at Broome, Western Australia nkext to the Timor Sea/Indian ocean.

    I will visit the virtual Smoky Drinky Bar with my fellow unrepentant defiant tobacco consumer friend the Giant Mundo on my return. We shall aim not to be 3 sheets to the wind beforehand!


  3. garyk30 says:

    Facts dependent on the IDL
    For the two hours between 10:00 and 11:59 UTC each day, three different calendar dates are observed at the same time in different places on Earth. For example, at 10:15 UTC Thursday, it is 23:15 Wednesday in American Samoa (UTC−11), Thursday in most of the world, and 00:15 Friday in Kiritimati (UTC+14).

    Just strange facts; but, day of the week might make a difference. 🤡🤡🤡🤡

  4. beobrigitte says:

    So my suggestion to visitors to the Smoky Drinky Bar is to enter it, and then carry on doing what they were doing, which might be cooking, eating, reading a book, watching TV, while keeping one eye on the Smoky Drinky Bar, only exiting it when you’re no longer available to chat, because you’re going to sleep, or going out, or doing something that requires your full attention.
    I was going to suggest something like that. I stayed in the bar last night on my own whilst watching some youtube documentary on my tv. I had to briefly log out to reply to a couple of texts from my offspring, but when I went back into the bar for a last check before bedtime Emily was there. Needless to say my bedtime got delayed by about 1 1/2 hours.
    Having a less active day today (too late bedtime last night… I guess I forgot how NICE a relaxed pub conversation can be and therefore I ignored the clock) and will be ready to dive into the bar tonight. Rumours have it that there will be a new Bitter for half price there tonight! Not going to miss that, am I?

    A couple of nights back, Twenty Rothmans was doing some ironing in the Smoky Drinky Bar until he decided that ironing wasn’t something you should do in a pub.
    Twenty Rothmans, have you finished your ironing? Perhaps I can bring some of mine?? :)

  5. Twenty Rothmans says:

    I gaze ruefully at the still-unironed bedlinen behind me and wonder why I didn’t carry on – it would have been done by now.
    When I am working from home, it’s tempting to fire up the bar on a spare monitor. But if something from work crops up and it’s time to leave, it could seem very rude if there is only one other person in the bar.
    Which I did to you, several times!
    I might treat you to some shoe polishing next.

  6. Emily says:

    I am extremely impressed by the fact that Twenty Rothmans irons his bed linen.

    • nisakiman says:

      Me too! Ironing bed linen? Blimey, that’s akin to ironing boxer shorts and socks! Life’s too short… :)

  7. DP says:

    Dear Mr Davis

    A brilliant idea. I hope to join you one day soon. May I suggest you have an Official Launch Day on National Smokers’ Day – Saturday 1 July?

    What better way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the thuggish smoker ban in England than to launch a global virtual pub.

    I dare say many such pubs will open in different time zones around the world. The virtue of a virtual pub is that one could be present in several around the globe at the same time.

    It will be very interesting to see how it develops, especially if people with new ideas share them with the other ‘publicans’ and their regulars.

    Game on!


  8. Rose says:

    That’s odd.
    On another blog I said that the pubco’s possibly “caved in to ASH” because they were threatened with a deluge of compensation claims if they didn’t.

    Now it’s vanished so I’ll post it here, perhaps it was too long.

    ASH Political Bulletin 2004
    page 7

    Letter to The Publican,
    May 2004
    From: Peter Linacre, Managing Director, Massive Pub Company

    “I attended and spoke yesterday (Monday 17th May 2004) at a conference held by The Royal College of Physicians entitled ‘Environmental Tobacco Smoke and The Hospitality Industry’.”

    “What is also clear is that the legal dimension to ETS is only just beginning. We will need to add ETS to our Risk Assessments and to make appropriate provision.

    “The only ultimate provision and safety for us will be a smoking ban.
    We all need to be forwarned that the next growth area for the legal system will be prosecutions of publicans for not protecting staff from the dangers of ETS.Since April 27 cases have been taken on – this is the start of a tidal wave – in my view.

    The industry, through the various trade bodies is looking for a voluntary ban with 80% of premises having smoke free areas by 2007.
    Having attended the conference I am of the clear view that far too many of us could be fighting legal battles by then, and perhaps we will be preferring a total national ban.

    We need to take a very close look at what is happening elsewhere and learn from their experiences.The clearest message from this conference is that on health and legal grounds a ban is an absolute must and an absolute certainty.
    That frightens us and requires us to change will, ultimately, be irrelevant.

    I would strongly recommend that every trade body and industry representative invites some of the speakers from this conference, or workshop.
    At least that way acknowledge of the dangers of ETS and to our livelihoods and businesses will be more widely available.”

    Click to access ASH_405.pdf

    ASH and Thompsons’ Tell Employers: Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned Over Secondhand Smoke
    12 January 2004

    “ASH has sent a registered letter to all the UK’s leading hospitality trade employers, warning them that the “date of guilty knowledge” under the Health and Safety at Work Act is now past, and that employers should therefore know of the risks of exposing their staff to secondhand smoke.

    Employers who continue to permit smoking in the workplace are therefore likely to be held liable by the courts for any health damage caused. ASH and Thompsons intend to use the letters in any future court cases as evidence that employers have been fully informed of the issue.”

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      So in short they acted like gangsters and lied on threats and coercion to carry out their ‘confidence trick’.

      • Rose says:


        ASH’s remarks in it’s daily news, no longer available.

        Smoking conference urges change

        “Trade publication the Publican is feeling decidedly bruised and sorry for itself as, a result of a smoking in the workplace conference organised by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

        The Publican claims that the conference, whose purpose was to discuss the impact of passive smoking on employees in pubs and bars, turned into “an assault on the hospitality industry”.

        The Publican also drew attention to how few representatives from the trade were present – eight compared to over 100 from the medical profession and local authorities. Licking its wounds the Publican reported that the conference only provided one slot for a trade speaker, Peter Linacre, Managing Director of massive Pubs.”

        “However, in response President of the RCP Professor Carole Black said “Making these pubs and bars smoke-free not only protects vulnerable staff and the public, it will help more people stop smoking.”

        • Rose says:

          I was an avid reader of the Publican after the 1st of July 2007, it had a forum so you could read what the landlords were really thinking.

          Last Days at The Publican
          “Last year The Publican magazine, a licensed trade publication, closed after 36 years. Pete Robinson was a regular blogger for The Publican and reflects on its sad demise…”

  9. Smoking Lamp says:

    There is a poll up at the “Buxton Advertiser” asking for opinion on repeal of the smoking ban. The article is especially one-sided containing quotes from ASH and their cronies and no dissenting opinion (in research design courses that would suggest manipulation to bias the outcome of the survey instrument).

    Check it out: “VOTE: Derbyshire still supports smoking ban 10 years on”
    Read more at:

    • waltc says:

      3AM here, 8AM there. It’s 41 for smoking, 59 against with one commenter complaining that the ousted smokers stand too close to the door and their awful smoke wafts in and another wanting smoking banned in outdoor cafes

      • Joe L. says:

        And the commenter who would like to see smoking banned in outdoor cafes claims she recently went to a cafe with her dog and was forced to sit outside and occasionally catch a whiff of smoke. I assume she hasn’t given one moment’s thought to the possibility that some patrons might be allergic to dogs.

        It’s a common thread amongst all antismokers: they are extremely selfish and couldn’t give a shit about anyone other than themselves.

      • Rose says:

        Having got what they wanted, you’d think the rank and file antismoker astroturfers would have given up by now. After all, who else could be bothered to post on a subject that doesn’t affect them in anyway.
        Clearly they are still very worried about a possible repeal.

        • Joe L. says:

          But they haven’t got what they wanted, Rose. They want more. They always have. These sad sons of bitches won’t be satisfied with anything less than prohibition; they want everyone to be as miserable as they are.

      • Rose says:

        “For the next few months, strive to ensure there are positive media stories, letters to the editor, etc., that tout how well the bylaw changes are working. There will no doubt be a backlash from smokers in the beginning until they get used to the changes. In the meantime, you have to counter their negative comments in the media, in comment sections of online news pieces and blogs, on radio call-in shows, etc. Your job is to make politicians continue to believe that they did the right thing.
        It is not unheard of for councillors to backtrack on their decision and water down legislation.”
        (page 48)

        “Next few months”,rather optimistic wasn’t it? Our lot have had to keep doing it for over 10 years.

        George Godber explains his masterplan at the 3rd World Conference on Smoking and Health held at the Waldorf Astoria, New York in 1975


        “Need there really be any difficulty about prohibiting smoking in more public places?
        The nicotine addicts would be petulant for a while, but why should we accord them any right to make the innocent suffer?”

      • Smoking Lamp says:

        Well, the article has been removed from the website. I suspect this is because support for repealing the smoking ban reached 43% (43% YES; 57% NO with 159 votes) assign on the web cache. That result calls the ASH research into question since ASH maintains that 83% support smoker legislation. The cache is at

  10. beobrigitte says:

    Btw, if you follow the link posted by smoking lamp, there is another yes/no option about bringing back smoking to pubs etc.

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