The impending smoking ban in England and Wales could hit on-trade sales by the equivalent of 200m pints, according to recent research.

Market research company Nielsen warned yesterday (19 June) that the on-trade in England and Wales can expect to see a marked decline in alcohol volume in the coming year. Analysis of a year's worth of sales data from Scotland, following the ban's introduction last March, has identified that volume in licensed premises fell by around 5%. When compared with trends in England and Wales over the same period, the majority of this decline - 4% - can be attributed to the smoking ban, the research suggested.

"The on-trade is already under intense pressure with the number of pubs visits falling and aggressive off-trade pricing continuing to take trade," said Graham Page, consultant at the Nielsen Company. "The introduction of the smoking ban will put even more strain on this sector. Some optimism can be found from Scottish consumer opinion, with a sharp jump in the number who (six months after the ban started) claimed they were more likely to visit a pub if it was non smoking than in the previous year (57% up from 45%).

"However, alcohol volumes do not seem to be supporting this with a notable decline in the Scottish on-trade 12 months into the ban."

Nielsen also highlighted that beer was the category taking the biggest hit with Scottish volume down some 7% (36m pints) in the 12 months to the end of March 2007. "Beer volume is already under pressure south of the border with volume down 4% year on year," Page continued. "If we see a further 4% decline via the smoking ban, this would equate to a 200m pint fall out of the market."

Some categories have performed well since the ban, Nielsen noted, with wine maintaining a 3% volume growth year on year.

"The one real unknown and potential benefit, will be any medium term benefits, two-three years on, for pubs and other on-trade operators, as the current 76% of people who are non smokers, may find smoke free atmospheres in pubs, clubs, hotels and bars much more attractive and it could result in much need increases in weekly visits."

The smoking ban is due to come into effect in England and Wales from 1 July.