What are the Different Types of Smoking Laws?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 January 2020
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In general, smoking laws typically dictate either who is allowed to legally purchase and smoke products containing tobacco or where those products can be legally smoked. The “who” regarding smoking is often indicated by a specific age, which can be established either at a federal level for an entire country or at specific state or provincial levels. Similarly, the “where” of smoking can also be governed by federal laws, as in Germany and Canada, or by laws at a state level such as in the United States (US) and Australia. The smoking laws of a country or state can often be fairly hotly contested, and debate regarding the legitimacy of such laws is common.

Age is a fairly common deciding factor in smoking laws that indicate who can smoke legally. There is no global standard regarding the age required to legally purchase or smoke products containing tobacco, and in some regions there may be two different required ages for purchase and smoking. For example, in Japan smoking laws establish the age required to purchase and smoke tobacco as 20 years old, while in France it is only 16. In Ireland a person can legally smoke at 16 but must be 18 years of age to purchase tobacco, and laws in Sweden only indicate a legal age to purchase tobacco but sets no age for consumption.


Throughout the US, smoking laws indicate age requirements for purchasing and using tobacco based on individual states. The federal age for purchasing and smoking tobacco is generally considered to be 18, but states can allow smoking legally under 18 years of age, but will not receive emergency money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if they do so. In some states it can be illegal to purchase tobacco if under 18, but legal to smoke it or legal only under supervision of a parent or guardian.

There are also many smoking laws dealing with where a person can legally smoke. As long as a person is of age, he or she can smoke anywhere that local, state, or federal laws indicate he or she may smoke. Many countries across the world have smoking bans in public places such as restaurants, bars, museums, retail stores, and workplaces. Certain states within countries may also have individual smoking laws regarding where someone can smoke.

In the US, for example, these laws are typically state laws and not federal laws and their enforcement may sometimes be questionable. While most antismoking organizations claim that smoking bans do not negatively impact business at bars or restaurants, many bar owners attest to the contrary and have begun seeking forms of exemption to smoking bans. Many smokers protest smoking bans as an infringement of individual liberties, and “smokeasies” have often been established as bars or restaurants that allow smoking even though it violates antismoking laws.


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Post 3

@MrsPramm - If it was only the customers and the owner being affected I would agree with you but unfortunately workers are affected as well. My aunt worked in a bar for years when she was younger and, even though she never smoked herself, she has quite severe problems with her lungs now because of secondhand smoke exposure.

People don't exactly get to be picky about their choice of jobs these days either. So they need to be protected by smoking laws, the same way that other workplaces are protected from hazardous chemicals and so forth.

Post 2

@umbra21 - I would speculate that it's possible the composition of tobacco has changed over the years to make it less pleasant smelling. I remember reading somewhere that it's often not the tobacco itself but the additional chemical ingredients they add as preservatives and so forth that can be dangerous. The other thing to consider is that even non-smokers get used to the scent over time. If smoking was ubiquitous then you would simply stop noticing it.

And workplace smoking laws have only really been established in the last decade or so. I can still remember smoking in a restaurant or a bar without any qualms that it might not be welcome. It still kind of annoys me that places can't just choose for themselves whether or not to allow smoking.

Post 1

I can't believe how lax smoking laws used to be. I just can't imagine being in an airplane, where there is just no way to get away from the smoke and having someone next to me light up a cigarette.

Even if they didn't know that cigarettes were dangerous to the smoker and the person around them, surely they realized that they were simply obnoxious to non-smokers. And I'm talking as someone who used to smoke. The smell just isn't pleasant unless you're the one doing the smoking (and often not even then).

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