Smoking tobacco has played an important role in our civilization for ages. Throughout our history, different cultures and indigenous tribes around the world have been indulging in smoking ceremonies for both spiritual and social purposes. Such tribes were at a lower risk of developing various fatal diseases because they only used to smoke dried tobacco leaves compared to today’s commercially produced cigarettes that are filled with carcinogenic chemicals. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that some countries have imposed strict bans on smoking.
What is Tobacco?
Belonging to the Nicotiana genus of the Solanaceae family of plants, tobacco is widely used for smoking; however, it is also chewed. To achieve the desired results from smoking tobacco, it must be activated, and to do so, curing is essential. Curing is a process in which tobacco leaves are aged and air-dried by hanging them that gives them their aroma and smoothness. However, it is a long process, and to make it quicker, big tobacco companies often use smoke to cure tobacco leaves and add artificial flavors to imitate the desired results. Interestingly, curing is the process that generates the most revenue in the smoking industry. As for its history, the true origins of tobacco are unknown; however, records that date back to 1000 BC have been found of tobacco cultivation sites in Mexico. Traditionally, it was used in spiritual ceremonies and during special occasions by Native Americans. For them, tobacco is a sacred plant that has been gifted by the creator, and they strongly oppose its commercialization.
Presently, it may seem like cigarettes have been around for centuries; however, it was not until the 16th century that tobacco was introduced in Europe. While many people are credited with bringing tobacco leaves to Europe, Jean Nicot, a French scholar, popularized its usage in 1556. Shortly afterward, tobacco crops began to emerge in Europe and the US. At the time, a pipe known as “midwakh” was used for smoking, which produced intensely harsh smoke that was difficult to inhale. To overcome this problem, the production of milder tobacco was initiated and different materials such as plant leaves were used. By the 17th century, the fine paper was introduced to the world, and people begin smoking tobacco by rolling it into this paper. Once again, the French named this item “cigarette” in 1830. As it happened during the time of the industrial revolution, commercial production of cigarettes commenced, and it became the widespread phenomenon that it is today. Unfortunately, to make the products shelf-stable, the companies started adding chemicals that are now proven to be immensely harmful. Tobacco carries a nervous system stimulant known as nicotine that triggers the brain to release endorphins like dopamine. While it certainly induces pleasure sensations, those are short-lived, hence requiring another puff, and it comes at a significant cost to the body. From the entry point, i.e., the mouth, the cigarette smoke begins to cover teeth in tar, resulting in tooth decay. Moreover, it burns the nerve endings in the nose, causing a loss of smell. Prolonged smoking causes severe damage to the lungs, resulting in respiratory infections and constricting blood vessels that significantly increase the risk of a stroke. However, the worst part about smoking is that cigarette smoke causes DNA to mutate, resulting in cancer. Therefore, the strict bans make sense.
Tobacco is the only product that kills half of its consumers.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) December 19, 2018
List of Countries with Strict Smoking Ban
Since 2010, cigarettes are banned in 19 out of 20 districts in Bhutan. Moreover, smoking cigarettes is banned in public places, on public transport, in workplaces, health facilities, religious premises, and in educational institutions. Despite this, it is surprising to know that smoking is not altogether banned in the country. Moreover, a person is allowed to purchase tobacco products for personal use; however, there is a limit on how much a person can buy.
Reason for the Ban
The Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan was put into action to inhibit people from indulging in smoking, as it is considered a detrimental substance to both the physical and spiritual well-being of an individual by Bhutanese authorities. Interestingly, a similar ban was imposed in 1916 by the first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck, as he claimed it “most filthy and noxious herb”; however, it didn’t last long. As for the penalties, an individual can be punished with three to five years of prison without bail for using tobacco products in non-smoking zones. Although Bhutan faced quite the criticism for harsh penalties, the rules were not changed. Fortunately, under the same tobacco ban act, providing counseling and medical care to a person with smoking cessation is mandatory.
I would also like to give you my word that if this move results in increase of tobacco consumption and related ill effects, I will not hesitate to bring in even more tougher laws, if this is the only way. https://t.co/niENlcR9uD pic.twitter.com/gynPHIBTXk
— PM Bhutan (@PMBhutan) June 29, 2021
Costa Rica is another country that imposed strict regulations on smoking cigarettes in 2012. Similar to Bhutan, smoking in public transport, workplaces, and health care facilities is banned; however, smoking is prohibited in bars, casinos, and hotels as well. According to the statistics, approximately 6.9% of the population still smokes cigarettes regularly. The most surprising fact about smoking in Costa Rica is that one of every five physicians used to be a smoker.
Reason for the Ban
In the 20th century, the entire country was largely controlled by big tobacco companies, and it was not until 1992 that the authorities tried to impose a ban on cigarettes for the betterment of its people, as not only adults but even children were smoking cigarettes. Moreover, there were campaigns like Tobacco-Free Kids to promote a healthier lifestyle and educate people about the risks of smoking. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, the bill was not passed because tobacco companies still had a significant presence in the country’s political scene. Finally, in 2012, after a long tug-of-war between the government and the tobacco industry, the smoking ban was set in place. As per the ban, the companies are required to print warnings on at least 50% of the packaging, and advertising is also banned for smoking products. On the individual level, if someone is found guilty of breaking the mentioned law, a minimum of 180,000 colónes or approximately USD 335 can be fined.
Strict bans have been placed on smoking cigarettes in Colombia. The ban was imposed in 2009, and it states that smoking is prohibited in all public places. Shortly afterward, smoking was also banned in indoor workplaces. Similar to Costa Rica, the smoking industry made the prohibition of cigarettes a long battle.
Reason for the Ban
Colombians were becoming addicted to cigarettes near the end of the 20th century, resulting in an annual death rate of nearly 34,800 people. Moreover, one-third of the smoking population comprised teenagers. According to the statistics, in 1993, nearly 21.4% of the adult population of Colombia was a smoker. These statistics dropped to 8.7% in 2018. In the initial years of the ban, only 30% of the packaging was mandated to be marked with warnings; however, it was later increased to 50%. Also, labeling cigarettes with words such as “mild”, “light”, or “smooth” became illegal. Additionally, all forms of smoking advertising are banned in Colombia.
Modern cigarettes were introduced in Uruguay in 1880, and seeing the business opportunity, major cigarette brands started operating in Uruguay. In 2004, Uruguay banned the smoking of cigarettes in public places as well as in personal vehicles. Moreover, the government also run campaigns since 2008 to spread awareness among parents to not smoke in the presence of children. Additionally, was the first country in Latin America to impose a ban on smoking.
Reason for the Ban
This ban was set in place to make Uruguay a healthier nation. Interestingly, Uruguay’s president, Tabaré Vázquez, is an oncologist, and thoroughly understands the detrimental effects of smoking cigarettes. He cited that each day seven people are killed because of lung cancer and other smoking-borne illnesses in Uruguay. He also established anti-smoking groups, and they estimate that nearly 3.5 million Uruguayans smoke cigarettes. As for the penalties, anyone found breaking the smoking law can end up with three days in prison with a fine of up to $1,100.
Unlike other countries that imposed the ban at once, regulations were introduced gradually according to changing situations in Malaysia. The first control of cigarettes was set in place in 1976 by mandating a warning message on all cigarette packaging. Interestingly, it was legal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 until 1994. Finally, strict bans were imposed after 2008, stating the prohibition of cigarette smoking in public places as well as indoor workspaces.
Reason for the Ban
As mentioned previously, cigarettes were sold to teenagers legally before 1994, and unsurprisingly, Malaysia saw a significant jump in the number of users from 1970 to 1995, leading to the ban. Despite that, a majority of smokers in Malaysia are under the age of 30. To promote a healthier lifestyle and to make Malaysia smoke-free, various campaigns were also set in place. Additionally, heavy penalties, such as a fine of up to RM 10,000 or USD 2,300, along with two years of prison, can be faced by anyone who breaks the smoking law. To further inhibit its population from smoking cigarettes, the government passed a bill in 2021 that makes it illegal to purchase cigarettes for anyone born after 2005.
As of 2022, it appears as if there is a shift in consensus regarding cigarettes, as other countries are also planning to make changes to their existing smoking policies. Interestingly, each state in the US has its own smoke-free association that runs campaigns and spreads awareness regarding the negatives of smoking cigarettes. Additionally, there are organizations such as Smoke-Free Partnership that work to implement the guidelines laid out by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Moreover, a majority of the public is also actively enrolling themselves in programs to break their habit of smoking. Looking at the ban in Malaysia, i.e., not selling cigarettes to the underage population, countries like New Zealand and Denmark are also considering imposing a similar ban. Presently, New Zealand is among the rare countries to have plain packaged cigarettes, but the government is planning to enforce a law that anyone born after 2008 cannot purchase cigarettes. Unsurprisingly, this news has split the public in half, and although there are opposing forces to this ban, it seems like it is more than likely to be set in action.
New Zealand plans to ban young people from ever buying cigarettes in their lifetime in one of the world's toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry, arguing that other efforts to extinguish smoking were taking too long https://t.co/r5z6sIFVY5 1/5 pic.twitter.com/IeamuDROPu
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 9, 2021