cigarette pack Doesn't take a much to constipate a recovery. A few cuppas, sandwiches, pints and nips. Times about five million! cigarette pack

In 2013 Frank Davis compiled an "International Social Impact Survey" (01) about what we've done since our smoking bans were enacted. His results are very similar to those found on a readership poll at SAD Ireland (now defunct) that ran shortly after the Irish smoking ban. Over two thirds of all smokers admit to not going out as often or never going out because of the smoking ban.

I've often pondered what the real difference is between people who are unemployed and those who are "exiled" (to quote Ms Arnott of ASH). Semantics aside, there's nothing in it. The unemployed may can't spend money because they don't have it, while the majority of smokers don't spend money because they've got no place to spend it where they feel comfortable or get value for money. The effect on the economy is identical.

I looked back at what I did immediately after the ban in Scotland in 2006 and how that's changed over the past ten years. Fortunately I keep a diary, yet I know perfectly well from memory that I refused to legitimise the ban, so from 2006 until 2008 I only bought essentials and even quit going out of an evening with friends for a meal. Not wishing to destroy relationships that I've had for decades, I had no problem meeting up for lunches in beer gardens when the weather was nice, because that's what we used to do prior to 2006.

Nasty things happened to me in 2008 and since then I go out with my friends of an evening; not at the same once a week rate, more like once a fortnight - and only to places where service is quick or they have half reasonable smoking shelters. What I no longer do is wrap up the meal with a coffee and a cigarette, that I have when I get back to my place.

Where things are different is in winter when I'm shopping on my own. That's six months of the year. Previously I'd stop off at a coffee shop (always non-franchise) and have a coffee and a sausage sandwich (linked, sliced, on white bread with butter and mustard), read their newspaper and down a couple of fags. Or if it was really brutal weather then I'd include a slice of cake or pie. Naturally I'd adjust what I ate at supper to compensate for the calorie binge. These visits usually lasted for between 30 and 45 minutes.

Now the most I'll do is have a cigarette outside, then pop in for a coffee and a quick read of their paper, then finish off whatever it was that prompted my visit. But that's only when it's warm enough to sit outside. Otherwise it's into town, get exactly what I need, then back to the house.

It's possible to translate this into hard cash.

2 cups of coffee each week at £1.50 = £156

20 filled sandwiches or rolls per year at £3.50 = £70

6 cake or pie pa at £2.50 = £15

20 evening meals pa at an average of £30.00 = £600 (for 2006 to 2008 it was about 45 a year, but that's not ongoing)

So that alone comes to £841 per year. And I know that one of my pals, who doesn't smoke, only eats out with me so I should add a further £600 to that total, but I shan't because I'm looking at the cheapest possible outcome of a smoking ban.

Now taking my total of £841 and assume that about 5 million* others do this to a greater or lesser extent, then we arrive at an impressive £4,205,000,000. Yup, that's 4.2 Billion Pounds that we've taken out of the economy!

I no longer drink but Frank Davis and Junican do. Frank reckons he drinks about one seventh of what he did prior to the ban (02) in a pub, while Junican's down by slightly more than a half of what he used to sup in his local. Both admit to having a "snack" when in a pub, though they no longer do so as often - so I'll take their snack as the equivalent of a decent sandwich - £5. At this point I'm going to admit to using wayside hotels/pubs in the villages and out of the way places of Scotland before the ban. I always preferred these because they had secure parking, which is an issue with a scooter that's worth several grand, I'd stop at one for a lunch at least ten times a year. Don't do that now; maybe a coffee at a cafe (with the scooter in full view).

So I've taken it that the average smoker does not buy 4 pints of beer and 1 shot of hard liquor a week and does not buy lunch about ten times a year. I've taken a very conservative guess at the number of snacks smokers forgo and it stacks up like this.

4 pints of beer each week at £3.00 = £624 (price taken from this place (03)).

1 shot of liquor per week at £2.50 = £130

2 "snacks" per week at £5.00 = £520

10 lunches with coffee pa at an average of £20 = £200

That alone comes to £1,474 for your average punter and because far fewer people drink on a regular basis, I'll guess that at 2 million* per year. Again that works out at a very substantial figure of £2,948,000,000.

So we end up with a combined figure of £7,153,000,000 that we do not spend in cafes, restaurants, greasy spoons, pubs, clubs and bingo places. (And just for the hell of it, I'll multiply that by the number of years since the smoking ban came into force in England. That's 9, so the tally thus far runs at £64,377,000,000 that's not been spent in the leisure sector). Now to get this into perspective.

UK GDP for the services sector in 2015 was £320,602,000,000 and our combined total of just over 7 billion Pounds comes to 2.23%, so insignificant when considered against others in that sector such as banking, insurance, shipping and reinsurance. In truth even the graphs contained in this link show very little change until the banking crisis of 2008 (04). So it's perfectly understandable that economists and analysis ignore our actions, and even dismiss them as "social changes". To them it doesn't matter a jot if they're voluntary, or forced by tax and legislation.

Yes booze, tobacco and betting (as in bingo) are big tax cows, but that revenue shortfall has been offset by tax increases on booze and tobacco as well as an increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20%. VAT hits everyone, so it's satisfying to know that even those who sat on the fence when there was a chance to limit the scope of the smoking bans are now paying their share to keep them enforced.

That's not been possible with Local Authorities. Their reduced income from business rates has in part resulted in a reduction of services, or having to charge for others. For sure people know darned well when they get nailed for rubbish collections and they get royally miffed when residential streets are not policed, salted in winter or potholes repaired. But try explaining cause and effect, plus the hike in VAT to your average layperson and most will put you down as a nincompoop: just the typical jaundiced view of a pissed off smoker!

That's fine, even I don't expect any bar the most clued up smoker to fully appreciate what's happening right under their noses. Certainly those whose expenditure profile is similar to mine will understand, very probably because their underlying sentiments are identical.

So what I believe happened was a catastrophic drop in paying customers in the immediate aftermath of the smoking ban with wet pubs and bingo clubs folding within weeks. At that time, essentially for about three months following the ban, we probably hit anywhere up to 5% of GDP for the services sector. Then it became a slower process that's seen the end of many low-end coffee shops (like the ones I prefer), plus pubs, clubs, country hotels, wayside inns and even social centers. As our behavior became ingrained and alternatives emerged, like smokys and shed pubs, so the carnage continues, exacerbated by swingeing increases in tax on alcohol they found necessary to offset the shortfall in revenue from pub closures... that was caused in part by the ban on smoking!

For sure some places have changed hands - even my favourite dump of a coffee shop found a new owner, but they're not in the same market any longer. Many pubs have gone the gastro route, while my little dump now concentrates on takeaways with only a fraction of the previous number of sit down and eat customers. Many haven't and there's a site that lists some of the thousands of pubs that have closed and will never return (05).

The way I see it we most certainly have helped make the recession deeper and last longer than anything that's gone before. We've wiped a minimum of just over 2.2% of GDP from the services sector and that will not change, of that I'm 100% certain. Yet it suits the economists and healthists to ignore that fact. The average Joe may have noticed a few pubs closing, one or two cafes change hands, or lying empty - and perhaps the odd bingo hall that's shuttered. But he'd never believe that our not buying a few pints of beer, coffees, meals and sandwiches could be making such an impact.

That's because they see us in the street puffing away and assume we do everything else exactly as we did before the ban. And why not? It's a perfectly logical assumption. Average Joe thinks that, economists think that and politicians assume that as well. Fine, they don't smoke, they see no reason whatsoever why we'll do our level best to avoid paying their taxes on tobacco products, nor why we shun places where we feel uncomfortable lighting up and why, deep down, we simmer. Not in a negative way that's destructive to us personally, no we simmer in a very healthy way, always seeking ways to defy the system. And for payback.

That means the economy as a whole is being handicapped by our refusal to spend - and because we've become accustomed to this pattern of behavior, it will not change at any time in the foreseeable future. One way or another, most of us know the effect we're having here at home and we have a gut feeling it's affecting a whole lot more (caterers, suppliers, breweries and so on all the way up the chain). We know the feeling we have is close to universal, so as these bans begin to bite elsewhere the downward spiral will continue - as the IMF warns (06).

What's deeply disturbing is how it'll impact in places like China and Russia because, like it or not, they matter. And while I'm mad keen to see both countries fragment into their component parts, I know it's going to be very bloody and will rock our financial and political systems.

And all this just so a bunch of parasites can keep their jobs and perhaps a few hundred outspoken whingers don't feel the need to wash their hair.

Keep it up folks!

* The figures of 5 and 2 million are based on an average of 10.5 million adult smokers between 2006 and 2015.
web analytics
Smoking Scot
May 2016