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By Kaushik Das Gupta
Published: Sunday 30 November 2008

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 Smoking bans are hardly new--and rarely permanent

image On October 2, India joined a growing number of countries that have implemented far-reaching smoke-free legislation. But a look back reveals that tobacco bans are hardly new--and rarely permanent. Some of the earlier smoke-free legislations:

1575: A Mexican ecclesiastical council forbids the use of tobacco in any church in Mexico and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. The prohibition is ineffective. The order does not deter even priests from smoking on church premises.

1590: Pope Urban VII threatens to excommunicate anyone who takes tobacco in the porchway of or inside a Roman Catholic church, whether by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form. But Urban VII who believed smoking detracted from the clergyman's duties has a 13 day reign and his successor Gregory XIV makes no mention of a ban on tobacco.

1624: On grounds that tobacco use prompts sneezing, which resembles sexual ecstasy, Pope Urban VIII issues a worldwide smoking ban and threatens excommunication for those who smoke or take snuff in holy places. A century later, snuff-loving Pope Benedict XIII repeals all papal smoking bans--the embarrassing sight of priests sneaking out of Church premises to steal a smoke plays a role in the revocation. In 1779, the Vatican opens a tobacco factory.

1633: The Ottoman ruler Murad IV prohibits smoking in his empire; 18 people are executed for breaking the law in one day in his reign. Murad's successor, Ibrahim lifts the ban in 1647, and tobacco soon becomes an elite indulgence--joining coffee, wine, and opium, according to a historian living under Ibrahim's reign, as one of the four "cushions on the sofa of pleasure".

1634: Czar Michael Feodorovich of Russia bans smoking, threatening offenders with whippings, floggings, a slit nose, and a one-way trip to Siberia. His successor Alexei Mikhailovitch rules that anyone caught with tobacco should be tortured until he gives the name of the supplier. But by 1676 the ban on tobacco is off.

1638: China's Ming emperor decrees any person trafficking in tobacco will be decapitated, the decree is ineffectual: smoking spreads within the court.

1640: The founder of modern Bhutan, the warrior monk Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, outlaws the use of tobacco in government buildings.

1646: The General Court of Massachusetts Bay in then British American colonies prohibits residents from smoking tobacco except when on a journey and at least five miles away from any town. The next year, the colony of Connecticut restricts citizens to one smoke a day, "not in company with any other." By the early 1700s, the British American colonies are major tobacco consumers and producers.

1818: Smoking is banned on the streets of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, usa. The mayor is fined when he becomes the first man to break the law.

1891: Angered by the Shah's tobacco concession to England, Iranians protest, and the Grand Ayatollah--Iran's religious leader--Haji Mirza Hasan Shirazi issues a fatwa banning Shias from using or trading tobacco. The tensions spark the Tobacco Rebellion--according to historians the beginning of a long confrontation between Iran's rulers and its clergy over foreign influence. In 1892, once Iran cancels all its business dealings with England, people in the country resume smoking.

1895: North Dakota in the us bans the sale of cigarettes. In 1907, Washington passes legislation banning the manufacture, sale, exchange or giving away cigarettes, cigarette paper or wrappers.

1914: Smoking is banned in the us senate. By 1920, 15 us states have laws banning the sale, manufacture, possession and use of cigarettes, propelled by the national temperance movement. Anti-smoking crusader Lucy Gaston announces her candidacy for president in 1920--the same year Warren G Harding's nomination is decided by Republican Party bosses in a "smoke-filled room." By 1927, all smoke-free legislation in the us --except that banning the sale of cigarettes to minors--is repealed.

1942: Adolf Hitler directs one of the most aggressive anti-smoking campaigns in history, including heavy taxes and bans on smoking in many public places. The country's antismoking movement loses most of its momentum after World War II.

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