Discussing the smoking ban has more or less been done to death since its implementation in the summer of 2007. The ban on indoor smoking across Europe has been met with both glee and gloom, depending on your point of view, but mostly revolving around the ban in pubs. Many begrudged the move, declaring that non smokers should go eat in non smoking establishments and that smoking and drinking goes hand in hand. Many pointed out that the suddenly empty pubs were proof that all the non smokers out there were not suddenly flooding to pubs to get a breath of fresh air with a pint of beer.
In France there was absolute uproar from the cafe culture, who opted to form private coffee meetings in their own homes, purely for the purpose of indulging in a Gauloise and a coffee. Whilst visiting the south of the country, I noticed there was a blatant disregard for the new rules by restaurant owners and customers alike; if no-one objects, is the smoker still flouting the law? In Ireland, the double-decker smoking busses provided by public houses were filled to capacity, including all the non-smokers who still wanted to be able to have a chat with their smoker friends.
Over a year later however, and the attitude from all is generally that it was a good move, and we are all glad it happened. It seems that once a six month moaning campaign had run its course, the majority of smokers accepted that it is actually quite nice sitting in a smoke free room and that it is harder to smoke 20 Marlboro if you have to stand out in the cold. Many musicians that regularly gig in pubs report that they have noticed a big difference to their health, although as a consequence of the ban, many support acts have a much reduced crowd, as they’re all outside smoking before the main act comes on.
The new gripe appears to be that most pubs and clubs don’t allow customers to take their drinks out with them while they go outside to smoke. As it is perceived that the enjoyment of a cigarette goes hand in hand with an alcoholic beverage, drinking establishments have gone all out to provide smoking shelters for customers so they can indulge in both in comfort. Who could have predicted that having a disused patio space at the back of a pub could be the answer to staying in business during such testing times? Some places even promote themselves as having the best smoking garden in town, with heated smoking shelters, adorned with fairy lights, palms and bamboo.
It is these pubs that are raking it in, but boosting profits by providing shelter from the elements for smokers is not exclusive to public houses. Cafes and restaurants that have room to erect a shelter are meeting the customers’ needs and therefore staying ahead of their competitors whilst maximising profits. It is not clear if non smokers are generally a happier bunch thanks to the ban, that is possibly because they still don’t go to bars and pubs anyway; but smokers and customers in general have got a good deal. The introduction of the smoking shelter has got the good majority out into the great outdoors, and provided a better environment for all with palm frond frilled extravagance!