Today’s columnist, Wendy Collins: Give is freedom to choose

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One would have to live on the moon not to know that the smoking ban in public places killed the pubs.

Since the ban, introduced by Labour, came into force in July 2007, 26 pubs per week, have closed.

Here in the Dearne Valley we have suffered the loss significantly more than other towns and villages.

The place is littered with former pubs, boarded up, some demolished, with the land which they stood on awaiting development.

Now the ban is set to go one step further and stop people smoking in beer gardens, outside schools and also in smoking shelters. These at least allowed pubs to keep a little custom.

I do not at all promote smoking, but what about the freedom of choice for those who do?

Extending the ban to outside the pubs will be yet another blow to this struggling industry. Many people, particularly those of the older generation, were not taught that smoking was as dangerous as the Royal Society for Public Health insist.

They are the age group who grew up with cigarettes being ‘cool’ and the advertising of “You are never alone with a Strand” still resonates for them.

You will be alone should this ban go ahead because exactly where will it end?

Are we going to have the ‘cig police’ banging on doors if you light up in your home?

The point that concerns me, and I am sure I am not alone, is that the pubs that are left are community hubs where you can put the world to rights, with your companions. If they close then what?

Following the closure of no less than 1,000 pubs a year, after the first steps of no smoking in public places, just how many more will follow suit?

Not only do we lose these meeting points, people lose jobs. And it doesn’t end with bar staff – there are delivery drivers, office staff and taxi services too.

Losses were in the thousands after the July 2007 ban which put many self – employed taxi owners on to the dole queue.

Canada was the first country to make the no-smoking decision.

This resulted in a slump in their pubs with one-third closing in the first year.

The Government were aware of these facts, but went ahead anyway.

Did this stop people smoking?

The Royal Society for Public Health claim it did.

Why then did the pubs lose out to such a degree?

What about giving people choice about whether they want to sit outside in the beer garden, or stay at home?