The knock-on effects of the smoking ban
The British Beer and Pub Association's gloomy findings feature in most of the papers this morning; 14m fewer pints a day sold in pubs, and about 1.6m fewer pints a day in bars. Two or three pubs are closing every day. With duty at about 33p a pint, it's a £5m a day loss to the Treasury, a bit short of £2bn a year. Not a fortune, but the multiplier effect of consumer expenditure means it's a real kick in the goolies for the economy, hitting smokers and non-smokers alike. I don't suppose it's much consolation to a newly-unemployed non smoker that they can enjoy a smoke-free pint at their leisure in their local, presuming it hasn't already closed down. And with commodity prices rising and an economic squeeze on, the rest of 2008 will be even worse.
Mr Le Grand may well trumpet that the economic pain is worth it, that the loss of the nation's basic community infrastructure is all in a good cause, that 0.06 of a life is saved every year and that we're all healthier as a result of not drinking so much nasty alcohol, but we all know he's away with the fairies. You see, what Le Grand and his kind simply cannot grasp is that life is not wholly a matter of quantity, it's a balance of quantity and quality. And the quality of all of our lives, smokers and non-smokers, will be greatly impoverished by the scale of these losses.