The Smoking Gone

First let me say this: I’m not really the sort of fellow who believes that we can or should look to The Market to do solve our social problems.

It looks like a smoking ban will be imposed in UK pubs before very long. Big Tony and his mates are keen and the pressure seems to be fairly constant.

I’m quite conflicted about smoking bans. In theory, I’m against them: I don’t see that there’s any need for government to get involved with people’s lives at this level of detail. In practice, in NYC, I rather liked the bars being smoke free and the more or less sociable little gasper gatherings on the sidewalks.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that, since we’re often told that vast percentages of the pubgoing public want smoke-free houses, it seems to me that the market should quite happily be able to accommodate smoky and smokeless pubs, solving everyone’s problems.

So why hasn’t it? Maybe World of Pub is so conservative that it requires the sledgehammer of regulation to shift it, or the Campaign for Real Air is not as widespread as we’re led to believe. All the same, I’m rather pleased to see the pub industry making an effort. Latest example: the Crown and Cushion, new addition to Sam Smith’s London holdings. It’s just off Fleet Street and occupies a space which was once half of The Punch Tavern (the history of these premises is another long story).

It’s a pleasant little place, regular Sam Smith’s range. Ironically, it has little in the way of comfortable soft furnishings, those havens for ashy smells. It all feels a little bloodless at the moment, but whether that’s because it’s all mirrors and no smoke, or whether it’s just new and settling into itself, time will tell.