Sydney We were told it would be the end of civilisation as we knew it. Jobs would be lost, profits would plummet. There would be general wailing and gnashing of teeth. But much like the dreaded and long-forgotten millennium bug, the new smoking ban in pubs, casinos and clubs has passed almost unnoticed into history. Two weeks after pubs in the harbourside city went smoke-free, the only discernible impact of the ban is the increased numbers of patrons drinking and puffing on the pavement. Smoking is already prohibited in trains, buses, cinemas, theatres, art galleries and restaurants. Even the popular tourist beaches of Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte are out of bounds to smokers. Publicans say that far from driving smokers away, the legislation is apparently making pubs more attractive to women in their 30s and 40s - a section of the drinking public who have been shunning the traditional Aussie pub. 'There's definitely been an increase in female patronage,' says Mark Alexander-Erber, who owns 22 pubs in the state of New South Wales. 'And the number of people wanting to work [in our pubs] has also gone through the roof.' While nicotine addicts are still getting used to the rules, non-smokers are enjoying the novelty of sitting in a pub minus the fug of cigarette smoke. 'It is cleaner,' said Alison Scott, 23, a new patron at the East Sydney Hotel. 'It feels like a healthier environment.' Smokers, of course, are not so impressed, saying that the ban infringes on their civil liberties. 'I'm disappointed that we can't smoke anymore because the state is controlling our ability to decide for ourselves,' said fellow drinker Ali Holloway. And while total patronage at pubs and clubs has fallen since the bans came into force on July 2 - the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), which represents pub owners, says revenues are down about 15 per cent across the industry - this is being offset by increased spending on food and takeaway beer. Stafford Sanders, the co-ordinator of the SmokeFree Australia coalition, said a scare campaign run by the AHA warning about job losses and pub closures had proved to be a gross exaggeration. 'There are some 100 quality studies worldwide showing that revenues at licensed venues do not drop after the introduction of such legislation,' he said. 'The only real hiccup comes from nicotine-addicted gamblers who are forced to leave their machines so that they can smoke - but we don't see that as such a bad thing.' The coalition is hailing the ban on smoking in pubs as a major victory in its campaign to reduce the number of smokers and improve public health. 'In American cities with similar legislation the number of people presenting at hospitals with heart disease has fallen by 40 per cent within 12 months,' said Mr Sanders. The legislation isn't just good news for non-smokers and health authorities, builders have been enjoying a bonanza over the last few months as publicans geared up for the new regime. The AHA estimates that pubs have spent A$400 million (HK$2.73 billion) constructing special 'outdoor' facilities for smokers - often by taking the roof off an existing bar. Some clubs have moved their slot machines, electronic blackjack and roulette machines outside. Under the rules, gamblers are not allowed to smoke, unless attending a private gaming room. Apart from disrupting people's gambling habits, the only downside of the ban is the fear of increased pollution from smokers loitering outside pubs. The City of Sydney is combating this threat by installing hundreds of ashtrays outside pubs and providing pavement smokers with personal disposal units, free of charge. City rangers in plain clothes will issue on-the-spot fines of up to A$200 to anyone who drops a butt. 'We make no apologies for taking a hardline stance to protect our environment,' said acting council chief executive Garry Harding.