10 years Since the Smoking Ban

10 Years Since The Smoking Ban – Joe Holyoake speaks to scene stalwarts about how it’s changed things


Well, nearly 10 years. Smoking was banned in public places in England on July 1st 2007, but isn’t it pretty arbitrary anyway to wait an extra 3 months for 10 years exactly anyway? As everyone knows, we’ve got a reputation for being anarchic mavericks here at QX, so we’re just going to run this retrospective now. 9 years and 9 and a half months since the smoking ban (apart from in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland). Not that snappy a title really.

ANYWAY, there’s a whole bunch of us who have never known smoking inside in bars and clubs, apart from in grotty European nightclubs playing turbo-folk. So, we thought that we’d speak to people who were around before the ban to see what’s changed and what impact it’s had on the scene. Obviously, we’ll all have a chance to compare it firsthand when UKIP win the next election and make smoking in pubs compulsory, along with bringing back pre-decimalised currency and the death penalty for light blasphemy. However, until then, let’s ask those who were there at the time….

 

John Sizzle: The Glory

What are the main changes you’ve noticed since the ban?

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I think the city is probably a lot healthier these days and there’s definitely been a shift in attitudes towards smoking and health issues. You also don’t get randomly burnt by careless fag wavers or have your clothes damaged. The amount of quality chemise of mine that was ruined! And as a drag artist, I’ve always been highly flammable!

What was the impact of it at the time?

It was horrendous. It felt like an attack on civil liberties, when in fact everyone seems to have benefited from it now. Smokers can smoke and non-smokers don’t have to be around it. 

Has it all been positive, or do you think there have been any negative consequences from it?

Negatively, I think loads of businesses suffered, because smokers chose places that could accommodate them more comfortably with nicer yards or heaters. Places where they felt less like lepers or didn’t have to shiver in the rain! Some venues lost a lot of money because of it.

Would you change it back?

No way. Smoking stinks and totally sucks!

 

Dave Lynn: Drag Performer

What are the main changes you’ve noticed since the ban?

The main changes I’ve noticed is that more people are giving up or at least trying to. As well as that, the venues aren’t so filled with smoke, costumes used to reek of it! Also, having to go outside to have a cigarette makes you feel like a bit of a leper!

What was the impact of it at the time?

There was outcry at the time! People, including myself, were outraged, as I loved having a fag with my drink. There was a brief moment when some venues went a bit quiet, with people going ‘you know what, fuck this for a lark, I’m staying in!’ We got through that patch and they came back, but every ten minutes, there would be a mass exodus whilst you were working, which was a bit annoying!

Has it all been positive, or do you think there have been any negative consequences from it?

I actually don’t think it was at all negative, but in horrible weather it’s not so nice for smokers! When you think about it now, it feels a bit odd to remember a time when you could smoke inside.

Would you change it back?

Although I’m still a smoker, I wouldn’t like to change it back! Mainly because I think a lot of guys and girls have packed it up. And even the people like me who still smoke, we smoke a lot less. Overall, it’s a cleaner, nicer-smelling time we live in now. I’m all for it!

 

Gary Henshaw: Ku Bar

What are the main changes you’ve noticed since the ban?

It’s freed staff and non-smoking customers from having to breath in toxic fumes from smokers. I firmly believe that the smoking ban has been very helpful to those trying to quit, which many now have, including myself. I was a heavy smoker until 11 years ago, but went to New York in 2006, when they’d already banned the fags. The ban helped me give up and I haven’t looked back since.

What was the impact of it at the time?

As a bar owner, I screamed from the rooftops about the impending doom. We figured that all the smokers and their mates would stay away. There was a real feeling that this was the last thing the bar/club scene needed. Everyone enjoyed a ciggie with their pint, where was the harm. Smoke or don’t, it’s freedom of choice. Yes, there was an initial drop in business, perhaps up to 20%, which lasted no more than a few weeks. The ban as I remember was introduced in the summer, so people just stood outside and smoked. Everyone simply embraced it and got on with things.

Has it all been positive, or do you think there have been any negative consequences from it?

The only negative I ever found in our industry is that other smells prevailed, i.e. body odour and dare I say, ‘wind’. We actually have ‘hotel style’ air fresheners across all our venues to ensure Ku smells lovely. 

Would you change it back?

No. I’d rather kiss a non-smoker than a smoker any day, although the offers seem few and far between these days!

 

Brent Nicholls: DJ

What are the main changes you’ve noticed since the ban?

First of all, I am a non-smoker, so I felt this ban was long overdue. I had been subjected to second hand smoke for way too long. Socially, I think smokers have accepted that what they do should not affect others in a negative way, and even though some of the smoking areas (especially in winter) make them seem as if they are being punished, the spaces have evolved as a chat, cruise and gossip area. It’s a good thing for both non smokers and smokers, and I think it has made many smokers become more responsible and hopefully smoke less.

What was the impact of it at the time?

The very first thing I noticed after the smoking ban is that people stink! Protein farts, body odour and too much cologne was all masked by the smoke. Over time this has subsided, after all no one wants to be the stinker in a room! The second impact was that if I had a cold, it no longer lingered for six weeks but was pretty much gone in a week or so. 
It did have a divisive feel at the time. Smokers realised they did not have the right to smoke anywhere they wanted to and would congregate outside, which would leave the place half full on the inside, changing the dynamic of the bar and club. It took a while for this balance to even out.

Has it all been positive, or do you think there have been any negative consequences from it?

For me, it’s all good. For the smokers, it was just another reminder that it’s a dirty habit, and perhaps they should give it up.

Would you change it back?

No, never. 

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