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Smoking and Public Policy in the United States

During the 19th century, not many people of the developing industrial era were in favor of restrictions and policies, which banned smoking. However, at the turn of the next century a number of moral and social reformers irritated and annoyed with the local people who used to consume tobacco and alcohol started to demand that the state and federal lawmakers take certain stern actions against them. At first, the Americans believed that the prohibitions were for their good but slowly they became disillusioned and began to defy the laws. In addition, the powerful and rich people in the American society conspired with the gangsters who suffered losses due to the bans in order to maintain usage of tobacco among the public. (Cutler & Rosenthal, 2002)

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Back in 1818, smoking on the streets was banned in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and their mayor was even penalized when he broke the law. Later on in 1840, Boston, Massachusetts, also banned smoking. More than fifty years later legislations were also introduced in Washington in 1893 that banned both the consumption and sale of cigarettes. Later in 1907, Washington also passed a legislation that banned the manufacturing, selling, exchange and distribution of cigarettes along with cigarette wrappers and papers. In 1898, Tennessee imposed a total ban on cigarettes and this was soon followed by Indiana in 1905. On 21 January 1908, the Sullivan Ordinance was passed by the New York City Council for prohibiting the women from smoking tobacco at places other than their homes. However, the mayor vetoed it after 14 days of its enactment. In 1914, one of the strongest steps against smoking was taken by USA when smoking was even prohibited in the American Senate. Nevertheless, later by 1927, most of these states had repealed their prohibitions on the trade of cigarettes and Kansas was the last state to do so. These bans turned out to be unsuccessful experiments and had many disastrous consequences since most people were against it and finally all the prohibitions were lifted in 1933. (Rabin & Sugarman, 2002)

USA had to wait for 40 years before Arizona, in 1973, became the first state in a new generation of smoking prohibition policies to impose a complete legislation that restricted smoking in almost all public places. That same year Florida also passed a total law that restricted smoking in virtually all their public areas. Later, Florida even made this smoking ban a part of their state constitution in 2002. Soon Minnesota followed in the footsteps of Arizona and in 1975 became the first state that banned smoking in most of the public spaces including public schools, day care centers and at health care facilities. Their no smoking policy also enclosed that restaurants include “No Smoking” areas but the bars were exempted from the law. In Maine, the Workplace Smoking Act came in to being in 1985 that banned smoking in all workplaces that were not for the common public. North Carolina passes a state law in 1993 that completely prohibited all the smoking restrictions that would be passed by any of the local government. Also in Maryland policies made in 1995 prohibited smoking in virtually all of their office workplaces. Another big step for the no smoking policies came when San Luis Obispo, California, in 1990 banned smoking from all indoor public places that included restaurants and bars and was the first city to do so in the entire world. In addition, later, in 1998 a total smoking ban was enacted in California, which again included restaurants and bars. (Slovic, 2004)

The following specify which state of USA has a smoking ban and which does not:

  1. The states that have imposed a statewide smoking ban are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
  2. Those states having partial statewide smoking bans are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Tennessee.
  3. States with a Commonwealth wide smoking ban are Kentucky, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico.
  4. Pennsylvania and Virginia are the states with a partial smoking ban.
  5. Statewide smoking bans have not been imposed on the states of Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
  6. The state, which does not have a territory wide, smoking ban, is American Samoa. (Slovic, 2004)

Smoking was banned in the state of Arizona when in November 2006 more than 50% of voters supported their Smoke Free Arizona Act that banned smoking at workplaces, restaurants and bars and people were not allowed to smoke within 20 feet of any exit or entry. This bam was imposed on first may, 2007. California banned smoking in 1994 and additionally people were not allowed to smoke within 20 feet of any window or door of government building, public university or private firms. It is also banned on the streets, outside shopping malls and the outdoor patios of restaurants and people caught smoking in these areas are fined almost $500. On 1 April 2004, Connecticut imposed the Clean Indoor Air Act that prohibited smoking at almost all workplaces and enclosed public areas that included restaurants and bars. However, cigar bars, private clubs and correctional facilities were exempted from the ban. (DeCicca, 2008)

Delaware declared a statewide smoking ban on November 2002 in all of its casinos, bars, workplaces and restaurants. On 16 November 2006, in Hawaii smoking was banned in all partially and completely confined workplaces that included bars and restaurants. Individuals breaking this policy had to pay fine of $50 and were even had to attend to court hearings or else warrant to arrest them was issued. The Smoke Free Illinois Act came into force on 1 January 2008 and banned smoking in indoor workplaces that included casinos, restaurants and bars. This act replaced all the other local smoking policies, which had little limitations allowing the local government to impose more constrictive laws. (Hassan, 2008)

The Smoke Free Air Act came into effect on 1 July 2008 after it was signed by the governor of Iowa and it banned smoking inside all bars and restaurants and almost all indoor workplaces, private and public schools, on properties leased and owned by the state government and city and state parks. Individuals who do not follow the terms, of this policy are fined $50 and for businesses, the fine goes up to $500 per violation. Smoking was prohibited in the restaurants of Maine from September 1999 and in bars from 1 January 2004. On 1 September, smoking was also banned in cars having children below 16 years old. (DeCicca, 2008)

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The Clean Indoor Air Act was signed by the governor on 17 May 2007 in Maryland and it came into force on 1 February 2008. It banned smoking in all indoor workplaces that included bars, restaurants and clubs. However, some of the private homes, tobacco distributors, wholesalers, importers and manufacturers, and few hotel rooms were exempted from this policy. The Freedom to Breathe Act in Minnesota came into being on 1 October 2007 and enhanced upon the actual Clean Indoor Air Act of 1975 prohibiting smoking in enclosed workplaces that include public transportations, bars and restaurants. This policy also replaced all other weak and limited local smoking policies allowing the cities and counties to impose their own more rigorous policies. (Hassan, 2008)

In Montana, the statewide smoking policy came into effect on 1 October 2005 banning it in almost all public places and buildings, restaurants and workplaces. Later a compromised smoking policy came into being on 15 April 2007. In New Mexico, the Dee Johnson Clean Indoor Air Act came into force on 15 June 2007 banning smoking in almost all of the enclosed public areas and workplaces and at the entry points of buildings. However, it exempts some businesses, indoor areas of restaurants and bars, some hotel rooms, tobacco stores and producers, private residences, cigar bars, non-profit private clubs, bingo halls and casinos. The penalties for violating these policies are $100 the first time, $200 the second time and $500 for the subsequent times. (DeCicca, 2008)

Utah was the 12th US state to enforce policies banning smoking on 1 March 2006 when legislatures were passed by the Utah State for amending the Clean Air Act of 1995 for completely banning smoking in taverns and bars and has taken effect from 1 January 2009. This new policy also bans smoking in workplaces having ventilated smoking areas, religious, social and fraternal companies, private institutions and day care centers. The Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act came into being in 2006 and Colorado was the 13th US state to impose a complete indoor public smoking ban. This law bans smoking in almost all indoor public places and confined workplaces that include casinos, public bathrooms, bingo halls, restaurants and bars.

In New York City policies banning smoking in restaurants, bars and indoor workplaces came in to being in April 2003. However, tobacco retail shops, private clubs, cigar bars and casinos were exempted from these policies. Later these policies were made stricter when smoking was banned in almost all tobacco retail shops, private organizations sampling and promoting tobacco, private clubs, bars having separate smoking rooms, bars operated by owner and tobacco bars, making these policies among the toughest in all of USA. The Smoke Free Ohio was approved on 7 November 2006 and this policy prohibits smoking in all workplaces, bars and restaurants. On 7 December 2006, it came into force and the Ohio Department of Health began enforcing the law on 3 May 2006. Under this law, individuals were fined up to $100 and businesses up to $2500. (Hassan, 2008)

The smoking policy of Rhode Island came into force on 1 March 2005 and banned smoking in virtually all enclosed workplaces but not for the gambling services. The state of Vermont on 1 September passed three laws prohibiting smoking in public areas and workplaces. The Smoking in Public Places policy bans smoking in public areas, like restaurants and bars. Smoking on School Grounds policy bans smoking in public schools and school events. In addition, an individual standing 8m away from a window or door that leads to intake ventilation is not allowed to smoke.

Although Louisiana has a partial smoking ban, it prohibits smoking in restaurants, workplaces, casinos, city parks, retail stores, malls, day care centers, sport arenas, hospitals, bus stops and museums of Terrebonne, Shreveport and Mandeville. Even Georgia has a partial ban and during 2005 and 2006, smoking was banned in the restaurants, bars and workplaces of Morrow and Athens-Clarke County. Florida bans smoking in workplaces and the Sarasota County has banned smoking in some special areas of their beach. After a bill was passed by the governor of New Hampshire on 19 June 2007, a law prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants came into effect on 19 June 2007. The State Senate of Tennessee has also passed a bill on 24 May 2007, signed by their governor that bans smoking in almost all of the public places and in restaurants. The Non-Smoker Protection Act was also passed by the Tennessee House on 31 May 2007, for the protection of the health of the common people but it too has a number of exceptions. (Powell & Chaloupka, 2007)

In 2007, USA also passed the Freedom to breathe Act under which even smoking in selected smoking areas, at places of public transportation and employment centers were completely banned. Last year, in 2008, California declared that smoking in front of a minor in a vehicle is to be a misdemeanor offense and Berkley banned smoking in commercially zoned public sidewalks. On 13 March 2008, in the Hawaiian County smoking was banned in almost all indoor public recreational places like beaches and parks. Although the anti-smoking policy of Oregon, the Clean Air Act, was signed on 26 June 2007, it came into force on 1 January 2009. It banned smoking from all indoor public areas, like bars, restaurants and taverns. In addition, people within 15 feet of the entrance of any building are banned from smoking. In Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Public Health Commission enforced policies for banning smoking in the terraces of restaurants and bars. Under their policy, smoking is also banned in hotel rooms and stores and pharmacies cannot sell tobacco products any more. Nebraska is one of the nations that are yet to properly enforce a statewide smoking ban although it has already been passed on February 2008. (DeCicca, 2008) The smoking policies are due to come into force on 1 June 2009 and it has been planed according to the Lincoln’s Ordinance. However, policies banning smoking from enclosed public buildings and workplaces are present in the cities of Lincoln, Omaha and Grand Island. In addition, in South Dakota the statewide policy will only come into force later this year on 1 July 2009, and will ban smoking from all indoor workplaces, like restaurants and bars.

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In the USA, a number of public transportation agencies have decided to ban smoking in their transportation facilities, like trains and busses. In Oregon, the Tri-Met transit agency has policies for banning smoking in all of their centers, bus shelters and train stations. These policies came into being from September 2005 and were enforced demanding fine and sometimes-even arrest. Illinois also has anti-smoking policies that bans people from smoking in the public school premises, both outdoor and indoor. In addition, from 2006 smoking was prohibited in their colleges and universities, especially in the dormitories. There are similar policies in Wisconsin and New Jersey too. Tennessee, South Dakota, Kentucky, Virginia and Mississippi, have even banned smoking in their government buildings. To make our future better the federal and state governments need to pass laws that make the people aware of the dangers they are putting themselves and their future generations. As the city of Bangor in Maine has, a controversial law passed in 2006 banning smoking from cars having children below 18 years old. Although they do not charge a fine, the suspected smoker may be pulled over and warned by the police. California, Louisiana, Colorado and Arkansas also have similar laws. In addition, Bill Clinton, on 9 August 1997, signed an executive order for banning smoking in the interior areas that were leased, rented or even owned by the federal government or all the outdoor areas that were under the control of the executive branch positioned near intake air ducts. (Rabin & Sugarman, 2006)

Most people, especially the retail tobacconists and the tobacco wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors and importers do are not in favor in any of the laws and policies that are present against smoking. Although we have enough proof that these policies on smoking have actually helped to improve not only our health but also the air around us, the businessmen and some of the powerful people who benefit from the tobacco industry are continuously working together to discharge all these laws. For example, the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007 which is present in the state of Maryland permit that businesses can apply for discharges against the law in which case they can be relinquished from the terms of the law. These smoking policies can only be successful in the future if none of the cocktail lounges, night clubs, casinos and bars are exempted from the polices, like those of Montana which have been exempted from the smoking ban till 1st October, 2009. The state government along with the federal government of USA needs to enforce the counties and cities so that they impose smoking policies that are stricter then the present state laws for the betterment of the nation and its people. The federal and state governments need to understand that until and unless the states have a total statewide ban the terms and conditions of the policies will not be met with. The policies should not be rejected by the Senates or the various Houses and the states need to value the laws and regulations of the policies. (Colman & Remler, 2008)

Over the years, these smoking policies have had much advancement. One of them was when the Nebraska Supreme Court invalidated the temporary exemptions enjoyed by some of the tobacco shops, keno parlous and bars on 30 May 2008. Nevertheless, the state and federal governments should not compromise with the policies banning smoking, like in the case of New Jersey otherwise these policies will remain weak and will never be able to fulfill its terms. The future of these smoking polices lies in the hands of the publics and will only show its actual effect if they adopt and implement these policies. The local governments should not exempt the private organizations that function towards the sampling and promotion of tobacco related products but rather need to strengthen their anti-smoking policies. The other states of USA need to make their policies tougher like those of New York City after which it was observed by the Department of Health in 2004 that the levels of air pollution in New York decreased six times after the ban came into effect. All the policies and bans on smoking need to be made state laws so that they supersede all other county and local smoking laws and as a result are more tough and strict. The individuals and businesses that violate any of the anti-smoking policies and laws should be fined, every time, so that they understand that what they are doing is causing harm to their own country. Only then will in future these policies and law be able to implement their terms. Until and unless USA has strict policies against smoking, the health of our future generation will not be safe. In the future, there are many policies, which are more restrictive than the present ones. Like the ban commissioned by the Boston Public Health Commission that will come into effect on 9th February, 2019 for banning smoking even in cigar and hookah bars. (Tauras, 2006)

The restrictiveness and prevalence of these smoking laws and policies have until date been able to contain the smoking habits of the citizens and has even been able to improve the quality of air in USA. In addition, the success and failure of these anti-smoking policies vary according to their occupation, age, habits and gender of the people. Many reports have also accounted that there have been a steady decline in the quality and implementation of the smoking policies since the smoking rates had been leveled off during 1990 and 1997 in USA but for the last decade, these policies have had a very positive effect on the people of USA.

More and more workplaces, restaurants, bus stations, airports, schools, universities and household all over USA are taking up policies for completely banning smoking and thus, these smoking policies have spread all over the country. The future of these smoking bans look very bright since almost 90% of all the USA states have enforced some policy for banning smoking, although the effects of the ban vary a lot. Some of them were never put into effect until late 2009 or 2010 and others have been dated even five and ten years later. However, no matter how long it takes the states of USA have come together to make their country completely smoke free. (DeLaurier & Kelder, 2004)


Colman, G.J. & Remler, D.K. (2008). Vertical equity consequences of very high cigarette tax increases: If the poor are the ones smoking, how could cigarette tax increases be progressive? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(2), 376-400.

Cutler, D.M. & Rosenthal, M.B. (2002). The Economic impacts of the tobacco settlement. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 21(1), 1-19.

DeCicca, P. (2008). Youth smoking, cigarette prices, and anti-smoking sentiment. Health Economics, 17(6), 733-749.

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DeLaurier, GF. & Kelder, G. (2004). Reducing occupation-based disparities related to tobacc. Roles for occupational health and organized labor. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 46(2), 170-179.

Hassan, L.M. (2008). Exploring the effectiveness of cigarette warning labels: findings from the United States and United Kingdom arms of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 13(3), 263-274.

Powell, L.M. & Chaloupka, F.J. (2007). Parents, public policy, and youth smoking. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24(1), 93-112.

Rabin, R.L. & Sugarman, S.D. (2006). Regulating tobacco. New York: Oxford University Press US.

Rabin, R.L. & Sugarman, S.D. (2002). Smoking policy: law, politics, and culture. New York: Oxford University Press US.

Slovic, P. (2004). Smoking: risk, perception & policy. San Francisco: SAGE.

Tauras, J.A. (2006). Can public policy deter smoking escalation among young adults? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24(4), 771-784.

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