IN streets whose names and grandeur stand as a legacy to Scotland's 18th Century Tobacco Lords, small groups gather in the glow of Glasgow's most popular hostelries, shrouded in their own plums, puffs and vapours.

Bonded by a momentary pariah status and with a stoic disregard to the sharp nip of the early spring evening, conversations are sparked up amongst the random gatherings.

There is a steady flow of five-minute outcasts from Merchant City mainstay Blackfriars, as there is every pub, club and restaurant in Scotland, a by-product of the most totemic health initiative since devolution.

"Sometimes half the club night is out here, its nice to get out for a breather and there’s the social aspect to it”, says Blackfriars regular and father-of-two Jamie Cowan.

“ I know people who have given up since and I really only smoke when I’m out for a few beers. All in all I don't mind. It's for the better.”

It is now exactly a decade since Scotland's smoking ban came into force, 10 years of lauded health statistics and signposts of major changes in social attitudes countered by repeated eulogies for the 'traditional pub' as closure tallies mount.

Introduced the same week as the birth of social media phenomena Twitter, images of smoke-hazed bars, cafes and offices seem like the stuff of another century.

Remember the warnings of an upsurge in social disorder and violence as pub customers were "forced out into the street to indulge their habit"?

Well, mass smoker civil disobedience, like much of the predicted catastrophy and chaos, failed to materialise.

“We’ve never looked back”, says John McMillan, manager of Blackfriars, a venue with a reputation as a gastro-pub. “We’d a big thing of businessmen coming in for cigars back in the day but now the food has really taken off, along with the craft beers and real ales.

“I’m a smoker but no-one misses ‘atmosphere’ people say smoke brought. And the impact of the nicotine stain on the interior is definitely something you notice has gone.”

It is often forgotten that the 2005 Smoking, Health and Social Care Act banned smoking in all enclosed public spaces, from work places to football stadium.

But this was a crusade against arguably the most negative factor in Scottish public health. Ireland had become the first nation in the world to issue an outright ban on smoking in all workplaces two years earlier. Scotland would lead the way for the UK.

If you break into the bars and clubs the resolve to tackle tobacco and second-hand smoke head-on is signalled loud and clear.

According to leading campaigners ASH Scotland, second hand smoke in bars plummet by 86 per cent and the exposure overall to children and adults to it is down nearly 40 per cent, an indication many gave up ‘the fags’ altogether.

Childhood asthma admissions have gone down by 18 per cent and heart attacks in nine sample hospitals have dropped by 17 per cent.

But what of the older, working class male or employee of a traditional pub some in the licensed trade say are the real casualties.

“We need to look at the health issue in the round, from the uncontrolled drinking at home to the loss of social interaction and jobs”, says Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.

Figures released this week by the Campaign for Real Ale state over 1200 Scottish pubs have shut as a result of the ban.

“Our only mistake was under-estimating the impact", adds Mr Waterson. “Around 80 per cent of pubs regulars, the three-to-five day drinkers were smokers.

“There's a moral argument here. I get that. People die. But ask about the business side and its been a disaster. And it has led to other health issues that are ignored. It's a no-win situation.”

But go back to pre-2006?

“That can't happen”, he says. “But Holland and Croatia have introduced some relaxations, as has Germany, with smoking rooms. “Ventilation technology has advanced since 2006. Even California has had some relaxation.”

Such sentiments cause grave concerns to the anti-smoking lobby which sees the hand of the global tobacco firms in attempts, they say, to undermine the legislation across the developed world.

Furthermore, drill into the health stats and it becomes apparent that those who took the message on board and quit are the more affluent. There are four times the smoking rates in poorer areas as in the better off. Those who who frequent the traditional boozer remain immune to the benefits of the ban.

And there’s another rub. Many voices in the licensed trade are far from despairing. Sure, the ban has been a major milestone. But it has not been in isolation, with the rise of the supermarket alcohol sales, lower drink driving limits, continual health messaging all engulfed in the global financial collapse.

"Scottish pub culture has also changed immensely over the last decade and whilst there have been a number of challenges, there is a lot to shout about”, says liquor lawyer and chairman of trade lobbying group BII Scotland Stephen McGowan.

“ I have seen many publicans respond positively to challenges by reinventing their business. The quality and choice of Scottish beers has improved phenomenally with the craft boom and the new generation of pub goers is becoming more discerning.”

Paul Togneri, of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, which represents thousands of pubs and major brewers, added: “Consumer behaviour and expectations when visiting your local has changed over time. Part of the diversification has been a greater emphasis of quality.

“What is crucial now is for both the Scottish and UK Government’s to recognise the importance of pubs and also the increasingly challenging economic environment that the industry faces.”