Scotland's licensed trade has been told that the smoking ban will stay, despite claims that it is affecting business.

Pub executives disclosed yesterday that drinks sales had dropped 11 per cent in the first three months since the ban was introduced on 26 March, with food sales also down slightly.

But the findings cut little ice with Scotland's health minister, Andy Kerr, who said yesterday: "I have not met a single person who wants to turn the clock back - indeed, feedback to me has been quite the opposite."

Mr Kerr said seven out of 10 people did not smoke and of those who did, seven out of 10 wanted to give up. He said that international evidence indicated the impact on the economy as a whole would be positive. But the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) chief executive Paul Waterson warned yesterday that the financial impact would only worsen in the winter and looks likely to lead to pubs closing. A survey compiled by the body said that 46 per cent of licensees reported a drop in visits by regulars and only 5 per cent reported an increase. Regulars were spending less according to 51 per cent, and only 7 per cent said that they were spending more.

Mr Waterson, owner of the Flagship Hotel group, said: "Now even our prediction of a 7 per cent loss of business has proved optimistic. Drink sales look to have dropped by over 10 per cent and surprisingly even food sales are down 3 per cent."

The SLTA survey said that losses had not been counter-balanced by new business, with 20 per cent reporting more new customers or more frequent visits but 17 per cent reporting fewer. About 20 per cent (365) of the SLTA's 1,700 members took part in the survey. Mr Waterson said his members were paying for an ill-judged policy. But anti-smoking campaigners accused the SLTA of "desperation" by publicising the views of a minority of its membership.

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