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Complainant Name:
Mr James Watson

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Independent


Mr James Watson complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had incorrectly claimed that data from the Office of National Statistics showed a net increase in the number of people visiting pubs since the smoking ban, and was concerned that the article wrongly implied that Christopher Ogden, the chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, had misrepresented the situation when he suggested that the smoking ban had severely threatened the pub and bingo industry.


The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following letter from the complainant both on-line and in the newspaper:

Dear Sir,

May I state right away that I have no connection whatsoever with the Tobacco Industry, or the Hospitality Industry or any such.

Emily Dugan's article of 29th May 2011 ("The Unstoppable March of the Tobacco Giants") uses Office of National Statistics data to justify the claim that pubs, clubs and bingo halls have not suffered as a result of smoking restrictions. The ONS report which she used was Opinions Survey No. 40 which was released 28th July 2009. Table No. 7.14 (Page 89) does indeed show, overall, that more people said that they went to pubs more often after the ban.

However, that report was superseded by Report No. 42 which was released 28th January 2010. Table 5.9 (Page 95) shows perfectly clearly that in both 2008 and 2009 less people went to pubs after the ban than before.

Ms Duggan relied upon the overall figure in table 7.14 of Report No. 40. She conveniently failed to observe the first column of table 7.14, which shows that a massive 25% of smokers said they went less often. The ONS surveys do not account for the actual number of visits to pubs that people make in any given period of time - they merely ask ‘more often' or ‘less often' - but the number of pub closures indicate that the industry has suffered significantly from the ban. Figures from the British Beer and Pub Association show an unprecedented decline in pub numbers beginning in 2007 which has yet to subside. Statistics from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales are remarkably consistent in showing a large rise in pub closures shortly after smoking bans were enacted (Source: CGA data/CR Consulting, September 2010). Since these bans have been introduced at different times between 2004 and 2007, this trend cannot be accounted for by other social or economic factors.

Yours truly,

James Watson.

Date Published: 20/10/2011

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