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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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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Live Smarter
Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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