"smoking tobacco under the beadle’s very nose, although each whiff would have cost a townsman a shilling"
The Smoker (a.1661)
Public DomainThe Smoker (a.1661) - Credit: Joos van Craesbeeck

Prohibitions against smoking were so draconian in seventeenth century Boston that the recent measures introduced across the western world seem laissez-faire by comparison. Anti-tobacco tracts of the time show that the weed was viewed by Puritan eyes as a bewitching corrupter, a pagan idol and the work of the devil. From the outset, settlers were forbidden to grow it except in small quantities for the health-giving effects it was then believed to bestow. In 1632, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay passed a law banning smoking in public upon pain of a fine. In 1634, this was ramped up to prevent the use of tobacco at inns and public houses, in company or the presence of strangers, meaning that it could only be enjoyed in the solitude of one’s own home.