More UK pub goers would like to see a complete ban on smoking in the UK on-trade than were eager to see an increase in licensing hours.

According to research conducted by Key Note for its report Public Houses, 39% of adults that responded to the survey would like to see a complete smoking ban, whereas only 18% would like later opening hours. 

"Later opening of pubs under new licensing laws is probably connected in the public mind to binge drinking, but this may be an illusion created by the media," the report said.

The issues of binge drinking and underage drinking are important to the public, with 47% of adults claiming that they would like to see more control over underage drinkers and 44% wanting to see more control over binge drinking.  However, it appears that flexible and longer hours are only of interest to a small proportion of publicans and their customers - usually related to very specific conditions.

"In contrast, smoking is of much more interest as a topic for legislation.  Whilst the findings do not distinguish between smokers and non-smokers, a complete ban is backed by 39% of adults, which certainly provides enough incentive for some publicans to consider introducing their own bans, without waiting for legislation," the report said.

Results show that a smoking ban would alienate more young than old customers but, even so, a third of 18 to 24 year-olds (who represent crucial trade for many urban pubs) would like to see a complete ban on smoking.  It is also significant that they are likely to be drawn from the more affluent half of society (46% of ABs and only 26% of Es), the report said.

"Future prospects for public houses depend on the impact of the new licensing and smoking laws, but growth is much more modest than the media coverage of binge drinking implies.  The uncertainties of the next 5 years are likely to further restrict the growth rate, and Key Note forecasts that the market will rise by 5% between 2005 and 2009," the report said.