Blog: Chris Brook-CarterWhere there's smoke there's freedom

Chris Brook-Carter | 6 January 2004

The news yesterday that the Laurel Pub Company is planning to open a chain of no-smoking pubs across the UK comes as no surprise having visited the group's London test pub opposite the Stock Exchange.

The move will effectively create the UK's first no-smoking pub brand under the "Phoenix" banner, the same name as the London establishment.

Although I am a non-smoker, I visited the Phoenix with mixed feelings late last year, unsure that I would notice much difference, given that many of London's bars are so well air conditioned these days. I worried, perhaps illogically, about a lack of atmosphere - created by the draconian no smoking policy - despite the pub's catchline "a pub with atmosphere, not smoke". And I also expected it to be empty. After all, everyone has friends who smoke don't they?

The reality is that it was packed, although this was Christmas, and a return visit in January may be more revealing. But, more importantly, I did notice the difference of being in a smoke free environment. The effect was driven home when one drunken reveller lit a cigarette the other side of the pub, some 30 yards away. Everyone noticed it straightaway and pinpointed where the smell was coming from. He soon got the message to stub it out.

But, despite this positive experience, it was not enough to persuade me the UK should follow the US in banning smoking in public places outright. My decision to go to the Phoenix was a free choice and I still want that same freedom to drink with my smoking friends and colleagues, in an environment that they feel relaxed in.

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