Cigarette Prohibition 1895 – 1927

In case you thought that smoking bans are anything new: US and Canadian cigarette prohibition 1895 – 1927 excerpts (H/T Harley):

In 1903, the Canadian Parliament passed a resolution to prohibit the manufacture, importation, and sale of cigarettes. Fifteen states in the United States banned the sale of cigarettes and 37 states considered prohibitory legislation…

Contrary to what is happening today, the anti-smoking episode that we
chronicle has been mostly overlooked, no doubt due to the greater attention
paid to the prohibitions of alcohol that were occurring at the same time. The
temperance reformers saw drinking and smoking as a combination of reckless
behavior and moral weakness. In their pursuit of a good society, they
asked the state to protect people against themselves…

Cigarette prohibition was special interest regulation, but its proponents
were not seeking to redistribute wealth in the usual way. It was the means
by which a group of crusaders sought to alter the behavior of a much larger
section of the population, thereby gaining a large ‘‘moral’’ rather than
‘‘monetary’’ payoff. The catalysts behind regulation were the temperance organizations, largely consisting of Protestant women, and their allies, who included anti-trust adherents and other Progressives. Mancur Olson provides
insight into why a relatively small group with no common economic interest
can have such a large political effect. Part of the strength of a moral reform
movement is that it can overcome the collective action problem cited by Olson
by appealing to a ‘‘higher cause,’’ or in Fogels words, by focusing on
the distribution of ‘‘spiritual’’ rather than ‘‘material’’ assets…

In order to achieve this social order based on
Christian and family values, they condemned and fought ‘‘frivolous’’ activities
such as dancing, drinking, smoking, and gambling. Therefore, smoking
prohibition was an issue for both those reformers wanting to stamp out
‘‘personal sin’’ and those reformers hoping to ‘‘improve health, safety and
family life’’ (Cooper, 1990, pp. 128–129)…

Although multi-denominational, the
majority of the members were Methodist middle-class women in small town
and rural areas (Cook, 1995, pp. 7, 61, 218). They literally besieged the Parliament
with petitions, letters, and delegations to press for prohibition of cigarettes…

French Canadians appeared much less likely to favor regulating social
behavior than their English counterparts, a difference that seems to still
exist today. For example, there is a sharp ethnic divide between Quebec and
English Canada regarding tolerance towards personal behavior: abortion,
media censorship, smoking, drinking, and pornography. Accounting for this
difference is a complex question and outside the scope of this paper, but one
leading candidate is undoubtedly religion. French Canadians were mostly
Catholic and Catholics may have been less prone to use the state to regulate
personal behavior…


The turning point in the legislative war against cigarettes came during
World War I. During the war, the YMCA, Salvation Army, and Red Cross
distributed billions of cigarettes to soldiers fighting in Europe and the federal
government supplied 425 million cigarettes a month to soldiers fighting
in France (Tate, 1999, pp. 75–82). Patriotic organizations in Kansas sent
cartons of cigarettes to the front, even though their sale was illegal in that
state (Warfield, 1930, p. 247).13 Anyone who questioned these shipments
was deemed unpatriotic. Soldiers returning from World War I made cigarette
smoking common and more respectable with the result that by 1920,
seven states had repealed their anti-smoking laws. By 1927, all laws, except
those regarding minors, had been overturned…

The common forces at play suggest
that neither United States consumers and producers of cigarettes nor
French-Canadians offered sufficient initial opposition. Yet, in the end, they
won the day…

Back then it was a moral crusade by a grassroots movement. Now it’s a health campaign by professional lobbyists. A hundred years later, the justifications for the antismoking campaign have all changed, but the net effect is just as destructive.

And also, back then it was the cigarette that appears to have been the principal target of campaigners. This initially remained the case when morality was swapped for health, but now all tobacco products are tarred with the same brush.

About Frank Davis

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8 Responses to Cigarette Prohibition 1895 – 1927

  1. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Eugenics was also a big part of those people’s movement. One which even hitlery cashed in on.

  2. waltc says:

    Can’t figure out how to post this pic directly from my ipad but here’s Lucy Page Gaston (1860-1924) the Carrie Nation of the American anti-cigarette crusade

    And the crusade smacks of eugenics now too. Why all those “studies” allegedly showing that if grandma smoked you’re genetically doomed? And the ones allegedly showing that the children of pregnant smokers have lower IQ’s and are more likely to grow up to be criminals? I’m sure there are even more even more ridiculous studies but just tose come to mind

  3. Frank Davis says:

    I’d been wondering when Ken Clarke would speak up:

    David Cameron “wouldn’t last 30 seconds” if voters back Brexit in the EU referendum, according to a former Cabinet minister.

    Senior Tories have warned that the campaign is pushing Tories to the brink of “civil war” and the party is facing “grave” consequences, whatever the outcome of the vote.

    Feelings are running “very high” and coming to terms with the result will be a “devil of a job”, Ken Clarke said.

    Mr Cameron earlier this week insisted he would remain Prime Minister even if he lost the June 23 referendum.

    But Mr Clarke told Radio 4’s Week In Westminster: “The Prime Minister wouldn’t last 30 seconds if he lost the referendum and we’d be plunged into a Conservative leadership crisis which is never a very edifying sight.”

    He added: “He’d be in a farcical position having campaigned for a position that’s been rejected. He’d be a Prime Minister facing a parliament in which the majority of the MPs wanted to remain in the EU. ‘Leave’ is in a minority in the Conservative parliamentary party.

    “The House of Commons as a whole is overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the European Union. And the idea that David carries on saying: ‘Well despite what I’ve been saying in the last few weeks, I’m now going to lead a government which is going to leave the European Union and I’m going to sit down with you all and find out what it is you want to negotiate that will determine new arrangements for ourselves and our businesses and for our investors that secure a new base for us in the globalised economy’, I mean it’s just farcical…

    It almost sounds like he thinks Brexit might actually happen!

    If he’s right that the PM and most of the parliament want to remain in the EU, then it’s not going to happen, is it? It’s not just that Cameron would have to resign, but there’d also have to be a general election which would be in effect a repeat referendum on EU membership.

    It’s just starting, but by June there’ll be floods of refugees heading for Europe, and the British people (and anyone with an ounce of sense) will be wanting to raise the drawbridge, and close the Channel Tunnel in order to stem the invasion.

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