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Smoking Kills: Death Penalty for Smoking, Booze and Coffee

Updated on November 24, 2008

Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy. But if you lived in the Ottoman Empire (1612-40) under reign of Murad IV, you might die much earlier than you got those diseases.

The Sultan Murad IV decreed the death penalty for smoking tobacco in Constantinople in 1633.

Murad IV of Turkey was one of most villainous emperor in the history. when he was five years old when his father died. Six years later he took the throne from his potty uncle, Mad Mustapha.

Here are 9 foul facts about Murad, one of them is death penalty for smoking, booze, and coffee.

Eleven-year-old Murad hated his Grand Vezir (What we'd call a Prime Minister) and had him executed.

Then Murad wanted the Vezir's friends killed. All 500 of them. They were strangled.

His guards set off round Baghdad, looking for spies, and Murad said, 'If you find one, kill him - or her. No trial. Find and kill'.

He ordered his guards to kill his brother.

He fought endless wars. In Baghdad in 1638 his men massacred 30,000 soldiers and then 30,000 women and children inside the city.

Murad's musician was executed for playing a song from Persia - the enemy.

And then Murad banned smoking, booze and coffee. The punishment was death.

He once came across a group of women singing in a meadow and having a picnic. 'I hate that noise',he said. 'Drown them in the river.'

At night he wandered the streets in his nightshirt and killed anyone he saw. He really like chopping the heads off men with fat necks.

Whenever the Sultan went on his travels or on a military expedition his halting-places were always distinguished by a terrible increase in the number of executions. Even on the battlefield he was fond of surprising men in the act of smoking, when he would punish them by beheading, hanging, quartering, or crushing their hands and feet and leaving them helpless between the lines. Nevertheless, in spite of all the horrors of this persecution and the insane cruelties inflicted by the Sultan, whose blood-lust seemed to increase with age, the passion for smoking still persisted. Even the fear of death was of no avail with the passionate devotees of the habit.

The first of the Romanoff czars, Michael Feodorovitch, similarly prohibited smoking, under dire penalties, in 1634. "Offenders are usually sentenced to slitting of the nostrils, the bastinado, or the knout," a visitor to Moscow noted. Yet, in 1698, smokers in Moscow would pay far more for tobacco than English smokers--- "and if they want money, they will struck their clothes for it, to the very shirt."

In the neighbour country of Russia, the Emperor of Mongolia places death penalty on using tobacco in 1617.

The Portuguese merchants and seamen taught the inhabitants of Kiushiu, Japan, to smoke. By 1595 the habit was well established. An edict prohibiting smoking followed in 1603, although it's much lenient than death penalty.

As no notice was taken of this edict, still severer measures were taken in 1607 and 1609, by which the cultivation of tobacco was made a penal offence. Finally, in 1612, jeyasu decreed that the property of any man detected in selling tobacco should be handed over to his accuser, and anyone arresting a man conveying tobacco on a pack-horse might take both horse and tobacco for his own. Yet in spite of all attempts at repression smoking became so general that in 1615 even the officers in attendance on the Shogun--- at that time residing at Yeddo, the modern Tokio--- had acquired the habit. The result was a sterner warning, to the effect that anyone in the army caught smoking was liable to have his property confiscated. In 1616 the penalties were made still more severe: to a sentence of imprisonment a fine was added, in many cases equivalent to an increase of from thirty to fifty days on the original term. But it was all of no avail; the custom spread rapidly in every direction; until, as we read in an Imperial poem of the time, many smokers were to be found even in the Mikado's palace. Finally even the princes who were responsible for the prohibition took to smoking, and the great land-owners and rulers of the Daimios, the military and feudal aristocracy, who were all devotees of the habit, were glad to let the laws fall into abeyance. In 1625 permission was given to cultivate and plant tobacco, except in rice fields and vegetable gardens. By 1639 tobacco bad taken its place in polite Japanese society as an accompaniment to the ceremonial cup of tea offered to a guest.


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