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The Time When Women From New York Were Barred From Smoking In Public

While it is now common to see women smoking in New York City streets nowadays, it was not always the case in the past. The Committee on Laws of the Board of Aldermen decided to stop the public smoking of women in the city on January 21, 1908. The law, dubbed as the Sullivan Ordinance, resulted from the unanimous vote from the committee members where business owners in the city had to call out any woman seen smoking in public.

Based on an article posted in the New York Times with the sub-headline “Will The Ladies Rebel,” the law concept came after a previous announcement that several restaurants will permit women to smoke in the vicinity. The speakers who attended the Ordinance hearings all revealed that they never actually saw women smoking in public. They also expressed their wishes to ban smoking when women are around the area. These speakers also called the Ordinance unconstitutional.

Also, there was one dissenter who stated that smoking should be banned outright. There was also a suggestion claiming that no one under the age of 21 can smoke in public. The archived article was followed by another article discussing a cow causing a hold up in a railroad.

The Ordinance, which got its name from a Bowery representative and a known Tammany alderman named Timothy Sullivan, was tested first the day after the announcement. During that time, a single woman named Katie Mulcahey was spotted breaking the Ordinance and fined $5. She was arrested subsequently when she refused to pay the fine. Mulcahey was able to get out of prison the day after because the Ordinance lacked information regarding how the penalty must work. Mayor George B. McLellan Jr. chose to veto the Ordinance shortly after the incident.

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Not everyone was aware of the infamous ban on women’s public smoking since it was mostly forgotten by history. But the Ordinance was mostly remembered when people choose to look back on the history of smoking in New York City. It can signify how far women’s rights evolved during the previous decades.

The majority of restaurants in New York continued to allow smoking within their premises until 2003. But this practice ended when former city mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered a restaurant and bar smoking ban during his administration.

Recent developments also tried to cut down the number of smokers in the city. In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced seven new bills to reduce smokers in the city by 160,000 by the year 2020.

Part of the legislation includes increasing the minimum price of tobacco and raising the per-pack prices from $10.50 to $13, limiting the existing number of retailers with tobacco licenses, and reducing the current retailers in half. They also aimed to develop a retail license for selling e-cigarettes and putting a cap on the number of those available licenses. The city also aims to increase the cigarette license fee from $110 to $200 and planned to require the owners of residential buildings to develop and disclose their smoking policy for their current and future residents.