7 Historical Bans on Smoking


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


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


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


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. 

Live Smarter
A Simple Trick for Keeping Lemons Fresher for Longer

Lemons don't get much respect in the average refrigerator. After taking a slice or two to punch up drinks or add to a recipe, the remaining wedges can often be pushed out of view by incoming groceries and left to go to waste.

But the folks at Food52 have come up with a solution to get more use out of those lemons by keeping them fresher longer. Because citrus needs moisture in order to remain fresh, all you need to do is place your lemon in a bowl of water before putting it in the fridge.

Another idea: Put them in a sealed plastic bag and make sure you remove all the air to prevent mold growth. You'll get up to three months of freshness with this method. If your lemons are already cut into wedges, you can expect they'll last three to four days.

The "hack" also works for oranges and grapefruits. As for freezing, you can do that, too, but the resulting mushy fruit is probably best left for making juices.

[h/t Food52]

The Body
13 Facts About Skin

Skin isn't just the outermost layer of our bodies. Without it, we couldn't do most of the things we take for granted, like breathing, moving, and keeping the body's inner workings where they belong. And while skin also evolved to keep pathogens and other bad stuff out of our bodies, consumers spend millions of dollars on products to penetrate that defense (with mixed results). Read on for more fascinating facts about the skin.


Skin is considered an organ in its own right. It's comprised of three layers: the waterproof top layer, the epidermis; a middle layer of tougher connective tissue, hair follicles, and glands called the dermis; and the inner layer, the hypodermis, which is mostly fat and connective tissue that supports the skin's structure and attaches it to muscles.


Those cells are known as melanocytes, which secrete a pigmented substance called melanin; the more melanin in the cells, the darker the skin. Having too little or too much melanin can lead to some skin color disorders: On one end of the spectrum are conditions like vitiligo—which occurs when some melanocytes lose the ability to produce melanin, resulting in whitish patches on the skin—and albinism, a condition in which melanocytes don't produce any melanin. On the other end is hyperpigmentation—the presence of excess melanin, which can cause darker patches of skin.


"Your skin accounts for 15 percent of your body weight," says Toral Patel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and supervising physician at D&A Dermatology in Chicago and a clinical instructor of medicine at Northwestern University. This makes it your body's largest organ.

According to that calculation and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average American woman weighs 168.5 pounds and carries more than 25 pounds of skin. An average man weighing 195.7 pounds will have nearly 30 pounds of skin.


New cells are created in that deep layer of the skin and take about four weeks to rise to the surface. There, they grow hard and then shed. This process, in which old skin is sloughed off and replaced by newer skin, might occur more than 1000 times over the average American's lifespan. But all skin is not created equal: Its thickness varies naturally among all areas of the body. Thickness can also be affected by age, gender, and habits (like smoking) that can change the cells' elasticity and other traits. According to Patel, the skin on the soles of your feet is up to seven times thicker than the skin of your eyelids.


If your skin cells shed every month, how do tattoos stick around? It turns out to be a function of your immune system. The puncture of the tattoo needle causes inflammation in the dermis, the skin's middle layer. In response, white blood cells known as macrophages are sent in to help heal the damage. These macrophages "eat" the dye and can pass it to newer macrophages when they die off, so the pigment is essentially transferred from one cell to another. Any leftover pigment is soaked up by fibroblasts, which are longer-lasting skin cells that don't regenerate as often. Only lasers designed for tattoo removal are strong enough to kill off the macrophages and fibroblasts that hold the dye.


Your skin hosts a microbiome that can contain more than 1000 types of bacteria (along with other microbes, viruses, and pathogens). These "tiny ecosystems," as Patel describes them, are mostly friendly bacteria that work in concert with our bodies for many beneficial purposes, including wound healing, reducing skin inflammation, and assisting the immune system to help fight infection. These bacteria were once thought to outnumber your own cells 10 to one, but more recent research has found the ratio is closer to 1:1.


Injuring or breaking the skin's dermis, the layer below the epidermis, can expose the inner tissues to pathogens. To prevent infections from reaching any further into the skin, body fat, or muscle, ancient Egyptians cared for topical wounds with salt (yes, really!), fresh meat, moldy bread, and onions.

While these may seem like unsanitary things to put on a cut, modern research has found that there was actually merit in their methods. With its high iron content, meat was a good blood coagulant and recommended for the first day of a wound, according to a 2016 paper in the Journal of the German Society of Dermatology. Salt and onions are both astringent, which can stop blood flow. Moldy bread likely had antibacterial properties—a very early form of penicillin, you might say. Skin wounds would then be sealed with a combination of oils, fats, honey, and plant fibers.


Your skin is a significant shield against billions of tiny microbes and pathogens. But just as importantly, skin keeps fluids in. Another way to think of this, Patel says, is that your skin resembles a brick and mortar pattern. The bricks are the cells. The mortar is made up of lipids, fatty acids, and other sticky proteins that form the watertight layer. "If you have any ‘holes' in skin where moisture can escape, which are more susceptible to damage, that leads to dryness, cracking, and inflammation," Patel says.

People who have suffered burns often have fluid-balance problems, says Robert T. Brodell, M.D., professor of dermatology at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. "Fluids are seeping out, and they can't keep them balanced internally," he tells Mental Floss. This can be incredibly dangerous, because fluid loss can cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the rest of the body. Dehydration, hypertension, and other problems may also occur when skin is injured.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which the skin cells in an affected area grow rapidly, leading to excess skin buildup, inflammation, and a red and scaly rash. While it can be uncomfortable to live with the condition on its own, studies [PDF] have shown that inflammation of the skin can lead to inflammation of other tissues and internal organs, and eventually certain diseases. For example, psoriasis has been linked to a greater risk for heart disease, as well as diabetes, Crohn's disease, metabolic syndrome, and other conditions thought to be correlated with inflammation.

Patel says that association makes treatment even more important: "If one organ is inflamed, you have to make sure another isn't."


Unless you live in the tropics, you've probably noticed that the skin of your lower legs becomes drier in winter—and there's a biological reason for that. "You have fewer oil glands on your legs than any other area of your body," Brodell tells Mental Floss. Oil (or sebaceous) glands, found near the dermis's border with the epidermis, secrete an oily substance called sebum that lubricates skin and hair. As people age, the glands secrete less oil, and that means drier skin. Winter's low humidity and our tendency to spend more time around heat sources dries out skin even more.

The solution is to install a humidifier or apply some moisturizer. Certain skincare products, such as those with emulsifiers like sodium laureth sulfate, can also dry out or irritate your skin, so read your labels carefully.


Both types of sweat glands are also located in the dermis. Eccrine glands, found all over the body, emit sweat directly through pores in the epidermis. Apocrine glands release sweat along hair follicles, so it's no surprise that these glands are concentrated in the hairiest parts of the body—head, armpit, and groin. Both types help regulate body temperature: In hot conditions, the glands release water and fatty liquids to cool the skin.

A lack of sweat glands puts people in danger of overheating. Those with a condition known as anhidrotic ectodermal dysplasia have few to no sweat glands, so they can't properly cool off when the body overheats. "They get heatstroke easily," Brodell says. A subset of people with this disorder suffer from immunodeficiency. They produce low levels of antibodies and infection-fighting immune T- and B-cells, so they are more prone to skin and lung infections.


The gut and the skin never come into direct contact with one another, yet research shows that the gut has a profound impact on the skin.

"The skin becomes very unhealthy when the microbiome of the gut goes into a state of dysbiosis," meaning when something attacks the gut's good bacteria, says Gregory Maguire, Ph.D., a former professor of neuroscience at UC San Diego and the founder and chief scientific officer of BioRegenerative Sciences, a stem-cell technology company.

Dysbiosis can lead to inflammation, irritation, rashes, and pain. "There's good evidence that eczema [or] atopic dermatitis is partially due to dysbiosis of the gut and skin," he says.

In a 2017 paper published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, Maguire writes that normal gut bacteria can actually calm the body's response to stress. A reduction in the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is thought to cause breakouts, also reduces the chance of skin irritation—all thanks to microbes in your intestine.


When the skin's pores get clogged with sebum from the sebaceous glands and dead cells, a condition usually associated with hormonal changes, you've got acne. Clogged pores that stay closed are called whiteheads; if the pore opens and reveals the gunk inside, it's a blackhead. (The medical term for a blackhead, an "open comedo," stems from a Latin phrase alluding to "worms which devour the body." But don't worry, blackheads are not actual worms living in your face.)

While acne may seem like a rite of passage associated with puberty, researchers are experimenting with fighting "bad" bacteria (in this case, Propiobacterium acnes, which is linked to acne breakouts) with "good" bacteria, also known as probiotics. "One of the things [probiotics] do is ferment things on the skin like ammonia and nitrites, and metabolize it and turn it into other chemicals that are beneficial to the stem cells in your skin," Maguire explains. A 2015 study in the Journal of Women's Dermatology and other research has found that applying topical probiotics like Streptococcus salivarius and Streptococcus thermophiles inhibits P. acnes and may make skin more resilient against it in the long run.


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