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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Posted by on August 22 at 10:54 AM

They’ve banned smoking in bars and pubs in Scotland—good for them—but now they government is attacking an older and more beloved Scottish tradition: buying rounds of drinks for your friends.

Round-buying is a cherished tradition throughout Britain and in Ireland, but it’s only in Scotland that lawmakers are trying to end the ritual.

From the most glamorous bars to seedy spit-and-sawdust pubs, drinking alcohol is a Scottish pastime that ranks in importance alongside soccer, history, politics and meat pies. The ritual of the round ranks among the worlds most hazardous etiquette exchanges and can be as fraught as a first business meeting in Japan or courting Sicilian style.

Each round must be honored and reciprocated as a symbol of bonhomie, generosity and swagger….

The Scottish government’s dilemma is clear. Drinking is big business in Scotland with breweries and scotch whisky distilleries making a major contribution to the 11 billion pounds (US$20.6 million (euro16.09 million) in taxes. The drinks and hospitality sector is the biggest employer in the country, accounting for more than 200,000 jobs.

But alcohol is also highly destructive. The number of alcohol-related deaths is rising faster in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe. Male deaths from cirrhosis of the liver have quadrupled in the last 50 years. The death rate for women has trebled in the same period.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Glasgow, but I don’t think I could live there—I just don’t have the constitution (or the liver) for it. Bars are everywhere, and they’re always packed. In Scotland you either develop a very high tolerance for booze or you don’t go out drinking at all. There’s no such thing as one or two drinks—if you step in a bar, you’re going to be out drinking for the rest of the night.

In other bar news, you can still smoke in bars in Chicago, which makes bars in Chicago extremely unpleasant.

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Christ, they'll be banning deep-fried Mars Bars next.

You can buy deep-fried pizza slices in Glasgow. You can, but you shouldn't.

I lived in Scotland for 7yrs. What a fine place to drink that is, when I drank the pubs dry in Edinburgh, I would grab a bus to Glasgow and drink them dry too.

The tradition of buying a round is not only sociable but economic. You head down the pub what all your mates and all you have to worry about is buying one round cause the next few rounds will be covered by your pals. This is a way of life and its bonnie socialist manner of drinking, long established by the working classes. There is no way to litigate against it. They can take our fags but they can't take away our ROUNDS!

Smokers are gross and should be outlawed everywhere. Smoking should not be seen as glamourous. Publications that advertise cigarettes should be boycotted.

"...Scotland with breweries and scotch whisky distilleries making a major contribution to the 11 billion pounds (US$20.6 million (euro16.09 million) in taxes..."

Not to quibble..too much, however at last glance 11 Billion Pounds Sterling is a hell of lot more than US$20.6 mil or Euro16.09 million...what figure is correct, Dan?



Dan doesn't like smoking, so he's all for the government preventing smoking. Dan likes people buying drinks, so he's against the government preventing the buying of drinks. Dan has an awfully Dan-centered vison of what behaviors the government should regulate.

Here's some news for Dan: If we let the goverment regulate the activities of informed, consenting adults, they won't content themselves with the stuff Dan doesn't like. Beyond prostitution, drugs, wages, seat-belts, bike helments, and smoking, plenty of people would like to regulate alcohol, fried foods, and gay sex.

Perhaps in return for the favor of being left alone to pursue his private activities, Dan might consider accepting the principal that others should be left alone to purse theirs.

Dear David,

I don't think the gov'ment should prevent people from smoking. It should, however, prevent people from smoking where people who don't want to be smoking—including people who working jobs—are forced to smoke right along with 'em.

A round of drinks doesn't float through the air and into the mouths of non-drinkers. So the gov'ment should butt out. But second-hand smoke? That shit kills.

Give it up, David, you lost.

And, uh, where did I endorse or slam the Scots for trying to phase out rounds? I didn't take a position one way or the other on this. And the gov'ment there isn't trying to ban the practice, they're trying to talk people out of it—raise awareness, shit like that. You're reaching, David, you grumpy ol' addict.

The life expectancy in Scotland is astonishing. In the Gorbals area of Glasgow it's sub-60, I think, the lowest in Europe. Deep fried everything, drinking then hitting the kebab shop then going to the club. Every day I spend here could take a day off my life, if I wasn't careful...

Another reason for having rounds: it means only one person has to stand at the bar for 20 minutes trying to get served amidst the crowd.

No rounds means 5 or 6 times the number of people waiting at the bar.

Dan: In case you didn't notice, no one was ever forced to patronize or work in a bar that allowed smoking.

Yes, I lost the battle over smoking in bars. (By the way, I don't smoke.) I expect to also loose the battles over alcohol, fried food, and gay sex. When those regulators win, Dan, will you still feel all superior about being on the winning side?

David: that line about no one being forced to patronise bars with smoking is bullshit.

If smoking is allowed in bars, ALL bars will have smoking. If you want to go out drinking or dancing, you will do so in a smoke-filled environment, period.

I'm not anti-smoking-in-bars because of the dangers of second-hand smoke. I'm anti-etc. because I really hate swimming through a quagmire of fumes when I go out, and I really really hate coming home smelling like a pile of burning tires covered in dog hair.

Monkey: You know, you could choose to not go to bars. Or if it's really importnat to you, you could open your own non-smoking bar.

"But the market wouldn't support a non-smoking bar!", you retort. Maybe not. Maybe that fact is an indication that the total harm to smoke-haters is less than the total gain to smoke-lovers from smoke-filled bars. But if you really believe that the government should force the market to cater to your preferences, I have a few preferences of my own that the market isn't satisfying, like that no bars be allowed to play music I don't like.

If you don't like the music at one place, you can choose to go to another. Don't like the clientele? Go somewhere else. Decor? Staff? Dress code? All of these vary from place to place, and while you may not find the exact nexus of your preferences, you have a great deal of control over them simply by choosing your location.

The only thing that doesn't vary is having to breathe noxious fumes if you wish to enjoy a nightlife. Without regulatory intervention, there simply won't be any non-smoking bars or clubs.

So why don't I open one myself? Apart from the fact that I am simply not interested in running a business, I very much doubt it would work. Anti-smoking-in-bars people will still go to smoke-filled bars because we still want a nightlife (but we'll bitch incessantly about it). Pro-smoking-in-bars people won't go to a non-smoking bar because there are a gazillion other places that will let them smoke inside.

On the facts, Monkey, we agree 100%. The difference is that you believe that it's the government's job to provide you with the kind of night-life venue you like, and I don't.

.. you believe that it's the government's job to provide you with the kind of night-life venue you like ..

Hardly. I think the government should allow people to make their own choices according to their own preferences. Without the ban, I don't have a choice about smoking, other than the trite "don't go out" option -- yeah, thanks, I'll keep that in mind. But banning smoking inside doesn't stop smokers from getting their fix, out on a balcony.

So everybody wins! Inside: a nice, clean environment for everyone. Outside: the huddled masses of wretched addicts, desperately sucking back toxic chemicals in a futile attempt to slake their terrible, terrible thirst.

Now where's my drink?

Funny how it never occurs to Scotland that maybe the reason Scots drink so much is because it absolutely sucks to live there.

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