Three quarters of pub licensees have seen a fall in the number of smokers visiting their pubs since the introduction of the smoking ban just over a year ago. Nearly half of publicans admitted that they had been forced to sack staff as a result of the ban, according to new research by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Association (FLVA). The survey also found that two thirds of landlords reported that smokers were staying at the pub for a shorter length of time. John McNamara, BII chief executive, said: “The aim of the ban was to stop smokers from smoking, but all that it seems to have achieved is to stop smokers from going to pubs, encouraging them to stay at home and drink and smoke as much as they like.” The findings came as the BII urged the government not to pursue proposals to ban cigarette vending machines from pubs, saying that it would damage profits at a time when premises were already facing their toughest trading for decades. McNamara also responded to the latest British Beer and Pub Association figures showing that five pubs were closing a day, by calling on the government to reverse its decision to increase alcohol duty 2% above inflation for the next four years. McNamara said: “We are in a time of recession or at the very best massive economic downturn and the escalator is a ticking timebomb. We are in real danger of losing vital community assets. “Pubs do have a future but we have to be very careful over the next two to three years, through the downturn, and ensure the least damage possible is done by red tape.”