Pubs Bodge in Smokefree Law ‘Disastrous’ for Health Equality and Government Alcohol Strategy

Thursday 27 October 2005

Media Release:  For Immediate Use, Thursday 27th October 2005

Pubs Bodge in Smokefree Law “Disastrous” for Health Equality and Government Alcohol Strategy

Survey evidence shows that the Government’s plan to exempt pubs that do not serve food from smoking restrictions will be disastrous for health equalities and will undermine attempts to curb binge drinking, Action on Smoking and Health warned today.


The news comes as the Health Improvement and Protection Bill is published and as Labour MPs queue up to attack the planned exemption and the cabinet chaos that produced it. ASH is to write to all MPs showing how the exemption would affect poorer areas in their constituencies. Contrary to John Reid’s notorious claim that smoking is a working class “pleasure”, it in fact kills more people in social classes D and E than any other, is the number one preventable cause of death, and the single most important factor in the difference in life expectancy between social classes.


A major survey of 1252 pubs, conducted by survey firm IFF Research Ltd has shown that those not serving prepared food are concentrated in poorer communities, where smoking rates are already highest.


Pubs that don’t serve food are most likely to be in high deprivation areas – on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is least deprived and 5 is most deprived the figures are as follows:

·         1 – 86% serve food (as defined by the white paper legislation but not including crisps etc.)

·         2 – 82% serve food

·         3 – 75% serve food

·         4 – 63% serve food

·         5 – 55% serve food


If the current exemption survives the Parliamentary passage of the Bill, publicans say that many will stop serving food. The IFF survey suggests that in future pubs will divide as follows by area – where 1 is least deprived and 5 most deprived.

·         1 – 21% smoking throughout but no food served

·         2 – 29%

·         3 – 38%

·         4 – 42%

·         5 – 50%

Across England, the proportion of pubs not serving food could rise by a third – from 29% at present to 40%.


This shift would also be disastrous for the Government’s alcohol strategy, a key part of which is to cut binge drinking by encouraging consumption of meals when alcohol is drunk.

ASH Director Deborah Arnott commented:


“These results were presented to every relevant Government department during the consultation on the Health Improvement and Protection Bill. They are a key reason why so many Ministers opposed the disastrous plan to exempt pubs that do not serve food. They also show once again just how fatuous is was for John Reid to claim that smoking is a working class pleasure – rather than the number one killer in poorer communities around Britain.


But of course, John Reid’s own constituents will be protected from the consequences of his ill-informed prejudice. The Scottish Parliament has had the great good sense to bring in comprehensive smokefree legislation. It is poorer communities in England – mainly represented by Labour MPs – who could pay the price in ill health and premature death of his recent rampage around Whitehall. We sincerely hope that Labour MPs will now put the health of their constituents first and force the Government to improve this Bill before it becomes law.”


– ENDS –



The survey was conducted by independent research agency IFF Research among a representative sample of 1,252 publicans and managers of pubs and bars throughout England and Wales.  The fieldwork took place between the 27 July and 11 August 2005 from IFF’s central London telephone interviewing centre. Full results of the survey are available on request.


The survey’s finding that 29 per cent of pubs do not currently serve prepared food is at the very top end of the estimate in the Government’s ‘Choosing Health’ White Paper (10 – 30 per cent). In the poorest areas, 41 per cent of pubs do not currently serve prepared food.


Regional breakdown of results:





Currently do not serve food Claim smoking will be allowed and will not serve food after proposed legislation +/- %
East Midlands 32% 36% +4
Eastern 19% 35% +16
London 25% 31% +6
North East 41% 50% +9
North West 41% 45% +4
South East 19% 30% +11
South West 20% 33% +13
West Midlands 29% 43% +14
Yorkshire and Humberside 38% 57% +19
Wales 35% 45% +10
Total 29% 40% +11




Ian Willmore (ASH) 020 7739 5902 or 07887 641344 (mobile)