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7 Historical Bans on Smoking

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Opposition to smoking has been around almost as long as smoking itself, and some of the historical measures to curb lighting up might surprise you.

1. The Pope Cracks Down on Smoke

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Pope Urban VII's papacy began on September 15, 1590. It ended with his death from malaria less than two weeks later. Although he didn't spend much time as the head of the Catholic Church, Urban VII was around long enough to make his feelings on tobacco known. He banned all tobacco "in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose." The penalty for breaking his edict? Excommunication.

Urban VII's crackdown is considered to be history's first public smoking ban. Various papal bans on smoking stuck around until 1724, when tobacco-loving Pope Benedict XIII gave Catholics the thumbs-up to light up again.

2. King James' Ideal Version of England is Smoke-Free

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King James I of England was no fan of tobacco, but instead of whining about it, he picked up his pen. In 1604, James wrote the treatise A Counterblaste to Tobacco, and he didn't pull any punches, writing, "What honour or policie can move us to imitate the barbarous and beastly maners of the wilde, godlesse, and slavish Indians, especially in so vile and stinking a custom?"

Ouch. Racism aside, James also warned of potential dangers from second-hand smoke and lung damage in addition to making a much simpler argument against tobacco smoke: It stinks. Later, he refers to smoking as "a custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the black and stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse."

For someone with such strong feelings about smoke, James I amazingly didn't ban tobacco altogether, though. He did, however, jack up excise taxes and tariffs on the weed by upwards of 4,000%. Interestingly, early 20th century tobacconist and writer Alfred Dunhill speculated in The Pipe Book that James' hatred of tobacco may have stemmed from how much the monarch loathed Sir Walter Raleigh, who was often seen smoking a pipe and actually turned Queen Elizabeth I on to smoking in 1600.

3. The Sultan Puts Out Smokers

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When Sultan Murad IV took over the Ottoman Empire in 1623, he inherited a land filled with corruption and decadence. He took care of it quickly, though, and by 1633 Murad had banned all tobacco, alcohol, and coffee from his empire. Murad IV made Pope Urban VII look like a pushover--his punishment for breaking the ban was death.

Murad IV didn't leave enforcement to his minions, either. He supposedly walked the streets of Istanbul in plain clothes and used his mace to execute anyone he caught using tobacco. As many as 18 people a day met their demise for smoking until Murad's successor, Ibrahim the Mad, lifted the ban.

At around the same time, Russia instituted a similar ban. First-time offenders would get a slit nose, take a beating, or be exiled in Siberia. Repeat offenders earned themselves an execution. These stiff penalties hung around until Peter the Great came to power in 1682.

4. French Smokers Head to the Doctor for Their Smokes

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French tobacco enthusiasts found themselves on the receiving end of a bit of a curveball in 1635. They could still smoke, but they would have to buy their tobacco from an apothecary. They would also need a doctor's prescription. Luckily for smokers, this restriction didn't last too long. In 1637, King Louis XIII, a snuff fan, repealed all of the anti-tobacco laws.

5. Colonists Turn on Their Cash Crop

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Early American colonists made some nice loot selling tobacco, but that doesn't mean they were totally in favor of using it. In 1632, Massachusetts became wary of the fire danger from smoldering butts, so it banned outdoor smoking. Connecticut followed suit in 1647 when it dictated that citizens could only smoke once a day. Even then, one couldn't be a social smoker, since the law dictated that smokers could only burn one when "not in company with any other." In the 1680s, Philadelphia joined in with a ban on smoking in the city's streets.

6. States Butt Out of the Tobacco Business

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Movies may depict the turn of the 20th century as a time of smoke-filled rooms, but in truth you couldn't even pick up a pack of cigarettes in many states. By 1900, Washington, Iowa, Tennessee, and North Dakota had all banned the sale of cigarettes, and by 1920 11 other states had enacted similar bans.

Some states were quick to ban cigarettes over concerns that customers might be getting more than they bargained for when they bought a pack. When a Tennessean challenged his state's cigarette ban before the Supreme Court in 1900, the justices upheld the prohibition partially due to concern over adulterated smokes, writing, "[T]here are many whose tobacco has been mixed with opium or some other drug, and whose wrapper has been saturated in a solution of arsenic."

Did these bans put an end to American smoking? Not quite. Although buying cigarettes wasn't legal in 15 states, the cigar business was booming. In 1901, four out of every five American men burned at least one stogie a day, and tobacconists sold 6 billion cigars a year. Like the prohibition of alcohol, these cigarette bans gradually fell out of favor, and after Kansas repealed its restrictions in 1927 cigarettes were once again legal in all states.

7. Hitler Takes on Tobacconists

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One thing you might not know about Hitler: He was a rabid opponent of smoking. German scientists were among the first to study the links between tobacco use and lung disease, and the Nazis aggressively sought to suppress tobacco use. In addition to implementing high tobacco taxes, Hitler banned smoking in German universities, government buildings, and Nazi party offices. After 1942, restaurants weren't allowed to sell smokes to female customers.

But when the Nazis fell, their bans fell with them. After the party's 1945 collapse, cigarettes actually became an unofficial currency in Germany's war-ravaged economy.

This story originally ran in January 2010. 

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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The Best Way to Wipe Your Butt, According to the Experts
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Curtis Asbury, MD sees it all the time. A patient comes in with blotchy, red, irritated rectum and insists they’re not doing anything unusual. Peering into their sore bottom, Asbury nods solemnly, then delivers news most people never expect to hear.

“You’re not wiping correctly,” he says.

A dermatologist practicing in Selbyville, Delaware, Asbury has seen an uptick in the number of people coming in expressing dissatisfaction with their rectal hygiene. Whether it’s due to misguided parental instruction during toilet training or wiping on sheer instinct, some of us are simply not maintaining one of the most potentially dirty crevices of our body. And the consequences can be irritating.

“It’s called perianal dermatitis,” Asbury tells Mental Floss, describing the kind of topical irritation that afflicts people who are wiping poorly, infrequently, or overzealously. In an attempt to clean their rear end, some people scrub so violently that the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons has given a name to the resulting tenderness: Polished Anus Syndrome, or PAS.

Fortunately, the key to avoiding PAS and other rectal misadventures is relatively easy. Here are some pro tips for a clean butt.

GIVE UP WET WIPES

For starters, Asbury recommends that people stop using the pre-moistened cloths, which are heavily marketed to promote a sparkling cavity. Use of the wipes has been associated with allergic reactions to methylisothiazolinone, a preservative used to inhibit bacterial growth while products are on store shelves. “Even the all-natural ones can cause problems,” he says, since any kind of chemical present in the wipes isn’t usually rinsed off right away.

Does that mean you should reach for dry toilet paper instead? Not quite. “It’s healthier, certainly, to clean your body with water," Asbury says. "Nobody takes a dry piece of paper, rubs it over their skin, and thinks they’re clean.” Even the Greco-Romans (332 BCE–395 CE) knew this, as one historical account from the philosopher Seneca revealed that they used a damp sponge affixed to a stick as a post-toiletry practice. Of course, some ancient cultures also wiped with pebbles and clam shells, among other poor ideas, so perhaps we should stick with contemporary advice.

INVEST IN A BIDET

A bidet sprays water out of a toilet
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Asbury is an advocate of the standalone or add-on toilet accessory that squirts a spray of water between your cheeks to flush out residual fecal matter. While bidets are common in Europe and Japan, the West has been slower to adopt this superior method of post-poop clean-up; others might be wary of tapping into existing home plumbing to supply fresh water, even though DIY installation is quite easy. For those patients, Asbury has developed an alternative method.

TRY PAPER TOWELS AND WATER

“What I tell people to use is Viva, a really soft, thick paper towel made by Kleenex,” he says. “You get a squirt bottle and you leave it near the toilet and moisten the paper towel.” Regular toilet paper is usually too flimsy to stand up to a soaking, while normal paper towels are too harsh for rectal purposes. Viva is apparently just right. (And no, Asbury is not a brand ambassador, nor does Kleenex endorse this alternative use.)

This advice does come with a major caveat: Viva wipes are not flushable and might very well clog your pipes if you try to send them down the drain. When Asbury recommends the technique, he advises people to throw used towels in the trash. If you find that idea appalling, and provided your butt is not already red from bad wiping strategy, lightly moistening a wad of durable toilet paper should do the job.

DRY THOROUGHLY BUT GENTLY

Once you’ve wiped enough to see clean paper, take a dry square and mop up any excess moisture. Whether it’s wet wipes or bidets, some people don’t bother with this step, but “it would be weird not to dry,” Asbury says. Occasionally, moisture can lead to intertrigo, which is irritation in skin folds, or a fungal infection.

You also want to have a soft touch. “I see people scrubbing hard,” Asbury says. “That just makes the problem worse.” Excessive wiping can lead to micro-tears in the anal tissue, causing bleeding and discomfort.

WIPE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Make sure to go from front to back, pushing waste away from the groin. This has traditionally been advised for women to keep poop away from the vaginal canal and prevent urinary tract infections. While Asbury hasn't found specific studies to back up this advice, he still believes it's likely more hygienic. There’s also something to be said for sitting while wiping, since ergonomically, it may keep your perianal area open. But if you’re uncomfortable reaching into the toilet to wipe, standing should suffice.

Assuming you’ve done all that and you’re still feeling discomfort, Asbury warns it might be something else. “If you’re not feeling clean, there could be issues with your sphincter,” he says. Weakened muscles can cause leakage. But generally, it’s dry-wipers who have trouble getting everything they need to get. For the hard-to-clean, Asbury advises that they make the switch to a bidet.

“It’s cold at first,” he says. “But you get used to it.”

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