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  1. The action of forbidding something, esp. by law.
  2. A law or regulation forbidding something.

Prohibition is normally associated with the banning of the manufacture, sale, transport (and, by inference, consumption) of alcohol in the United States between Jan 1920 and Apr 1933, during which time the US Government managed to murder, by some estimates, at least 10,000 people[1] by poisoning industrial alcohols manufactured in the country that were being stolen, and re-sold on the black market as drinkable spirits.

However The United States isn't the only country to have tried prohibition of alcohol; Wikipedia has a whole list - mainly of failures. These days prohibition of alcohol is largely restricted to Islamic countries.

These days, talk of prohibition, (while most of the time not actually using that word; abolition with its positive connotations with the end of slavery seems to be somewhat popular[2][3][4],) tends to be more focussed on tobacco.

The only country[5] that currently has a prohibition on the possession and use of tobacco is Bhutan[6]

Ivan Dean - Tasmania - Tobacco - 27 Aug 2012

Proposals have been put forward to prevent anyone born in the year 2000 or after (i.e. aged 12 or under at the time of the proposal) from purchasing cigarettes:

Legislative Council member Ivan Dean wants to make it illegal for people born after 2000 to buy tobacco once they turn 18 - meaning they would never legally be able to buy cigarettes.[7]

A little light on detail there, though that might be the fault of the article; difficult to tell. It seems to only ban the sale of cigarettes to them. Not the possession or consumption. Nor the purchase of loose tobacco (or any other form that isn't in a pre-formed roll of white paper with possibly a filter tip.)

Dean then goes on to describe the world he lives in, rather than the one the rest of us live in:

"This would mean that we would have a generation of people not exposed to tobacco products," Mr Dean said.[7]

The mind boggles. Why 2000 you may wonder? Next silly answer coming up:

"It would be easier for retailers to enforce because when they ask for ID, all they would need to see if the person was born after the year 2000.[7]

Craig Dalton - Australia - Tobacco - 6 Jul 2012

Professor Dalton seems to think that prohibition is the kindest thing to do:

When will we finally reach the logical conclusion that banning tobacco is much more compassionate than squeezing smokers with more and more painful stigmatisation?[8]

Immediately, if you ignore the fact that you've offered only two choices:

  • Stigmatise smokers
  • Ban tobacco

I (and others[9]) can think of at least one other

  • Leave smokers alone

Once we leave the realms of False Dichotomy and Morton's Fork, we see at least one, more logical, conclusion that could be reached.

We cannot assume that a black market will flourish with a retail ban. This assumption stops dead the discussion we must begin. Even at the current high tobacco tax levels, only tobacco-funded studies are able to identify a significant black market.[8]

Of course the current prohibition on things such as cannabis, ecstasy, crack et alia has totally rendered any black market in those drugs entirely obsolete, and there is little to no demand for any of those drugs. And the US prohibition on alcohol certainly made ethanol obsolete as the introduction to this page showed with the example of 10,000 deaths due to deliberate poisoning by the US government.

A comparison to the days of alcohol prohibition are not entirely relevant as this is not a ban on the substance desired by smokers – nicotine, which will still be available – but a ban on its most deadly form of delivery: retail tobacco sales.[8]

Professor Dalton presumes too much. Too many smokers are not only addicted to nicotine, but the habits associated with acquiring the nicotine. Banning the delivery method (or even a simulacrum of it which is currently in the works,) makes the comparison entirely relevant. Witness the success rate of nicotine patches, and gum in getting smokers to quit actually smoking. Special mention must go to the astronomical success of drugs such as Champix in getting people to quit smoking - by making them commit suicide.

Of course, if the alternative methods of nicotine absorption were so much better than the traditional method, why is this even a problem? Because they're not perhaps?


  1. The Chemist's War - Slate
  2. Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition - Book by Robert Proctor; Amazon
  3. The Abolition of Cigarettes - Middle School English Writing
  4. Case for Abolition - American Public Health Association
  5. Drug prohibition laws - Wikipedia - Prohibition of drugs
  6. Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010 - Wikipedia
  7. a b c Tasmania considers phasing out cigarette sales - ABC News]
  8. a b c Should we set a date for a tobacco-free Australia? - The Conversation
  9. Prohibition returns - Chris Snowdon - Adam Smith institure