Smoking bans – a short history

When Michael Martin Introduced his uncompromising smoking ban in Ireland he claimed Ireland was the first country to introduce such comprehensive measures to prohibit the use of tobacco. Like so many other claims he makes, he is utterly wrong.

Throughout history smoking bans and prohibitions introduced by despots and totalitarian regimes have come and gone. The most recent in Europe prior to the introduction of Ireland’s repressive smoking legislation were the anti smoking laws of the Third Reich, introduced by the Nazi’s during their brief but devastating regime in Germany.

Despite some harsh punishments throughout the decades for those disobeying smoking bans including death, smoking and smokers have continued to thrive. Below are some of the failed smoking bans and prohibitions introduced throughout the ages including the proliferation of bans revoked after the failure of prohibition in America.

Stop smoking poster

1575: Mexico:
The first recorded passing of legislation prohibiting the use of Tobacco occurs when the Roman Catholic Church passes a law which prohibits smoking in any place of worship throughout the Spanish Colonies
1600s
: World-wide
Popes ban smoking in holy places and all places of worship. Pope Urban VIII (1623-44) threatens excommunication for those who smoke or take snuff in holy places.
1612: China
Royal decree forbids the use and cultivation of tobacco
1617: Mongolia
Mongolian Emperor prohibits the use of tobacco. People breaking the law face the death penalty.
1620: Japan
bans the use of tobacco
1632: America
The first recorded smoking ban in America occurs when Massachusetts introduces a ban on smoking in public places
1633: Turkey
Sultan Murad IV bans smoking and as many as 18 people a day are executed for breaking his law.
1634: Russia
Czar Alexis bans smoking. Those found guilty of a first offence risk whipping, a slit nose, and exile to Siberia. Those found guilty of a second offence face execution.
1634: Greece
The Greek Church bans the use of tobacco claiming tobacco smoke was responsible for intoxicating Noah..
1638: China
The use and supply of tobacco is made a crime punishable by decapitation for those convicted
1639: America
Governor Kieft of New Amsterdam beats Bloomberg by hundreds of years and bans smoking in New Amsterdam later to become New York.
1640: Bhutan
The founder of modern Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal introduces that countries first smoking ban outlawing the use of tobacco in government buildings.
1647: America
People are only allowed to smoke once a day and public smoking is prohibited in Connecticut
1650: Italy
Pope Innocent X’s issues a decree against smoking in St Peter’s, Rome
1657: Switzerland
Smoking prohibition introduced throughout Switzerland
1674: Russia
Death penalty introduced for the crime of smoking.
1683: America
First laws in America passed prohibiting smoking outdoors in Massachusetts. Philadelphia follows suit introducing fines for offenders.
1693: England
First recorded ban in England introduced prohibiting smoking in certain areas of the chambers of parliament

* Smoking bans and prohibitions became rare during the 18th and 19th century. Trade in tobacco became an important source of revenue for monarchs and leaders and tobacco bans were revoked. Even the Pope not to be left out opened a tobacco factory in 1779.

1719: France
Smoking is banned with the exception of a number of provinces.

America and Prohibition

Smoking bans and restrictions found little favour in the developing Industrial world of the 19th century. However in the USA as the century drew to a close moral crusaders outraged by the consumption of alcohol and tobacco by American people began to demand action by federal and state legislators. This culminated in an amendment to the American constitution which allowed for the prohibition of alcohol in 1920.

Believing that prohibition might be “for their own good” Americans at first seemed to reluctantly accept it. However they rapidly grew disenchanted with the oppression. The rich and powerful colluded and rubbed shoulders with gangsters in efforts to maintain the flow of alcohol. Speakeasies flourished, hip flasks became a popular symbol of defiance.

American Anti Cigarette League
Lucy Page Gaston of the
Anti-Cigarette League 1900

During this period the imposition of smoking bans reached a zenith with the sale of cigarettes banned in 15 states. However by 1927, Kansas became the last state to repeal it’s ban on the sale of cigarettes. Other than making the crusaders feel good, prohibition had proved an unsuccessful experiment in social engineering leading to many disastrous consequences. Prohibition was eventually lifted in 1933.

1818: USA
Smoking is banned on the streets of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The mayor is fined when he becomes the first man to break the law.
1840: USA
Smoking is banned in Boston
1893: USA
Washington State introduces legislation banning the sale and consumption of cigarettes
1898: USA
Total ban on cigarettes in the state of Tennessee
1900: USA
The sale of cigarettes is now outlawed in the states of Washington, Iowa, Tennessee and North Dakota
1904: USA
A women is sent to jail for 30 days by a New York judge for smoking in front of her children.
1905: USA
Indiana introduces a total cigarette ban
1907: USA
Washington passes legislation banning the manufacture, sale, exchange or giving away cigarettes, cigarette paper or wrappers
1914: USA
Smoking banned in the US Senate
1922: USA
15 States now have laws banning the sale, manufacture, possession and use of cigarettes

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