Historical Highlights

Early Efforts to Ban Smoking in the House Chamber

January 10, 1896
Early Efforts to Ban Smoking in the House Chamber Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Though initially banned at all times in the House Chamber in 1896, smoking was permitted throughout the rest of the House side of the Capitol until 2007.
On this date, the House of Representatives officially banned smoking in the House Chamber. In 1871, under Speaker James G. Blaine of Maine, the House had initiated the first ban which eliminated smoking in the galleries and on the House Floor while in legislative session. The 1896 provision amended House Rule 65 (present day Rule 17) to prohibit smoking at all times in the House Chamber. Representative Thomas Catchings of Mississippi and future Speaker of the House David Henderson of Iowa introduced the amendment. In making his argument for modifying the rule Henderson stated, “I believe that since I have had a seat in this body members have been killed not alone because of the polluting effects of tobacco, but generally because of the impure air in this Hall. I think this provision will be a great step toward the preservation of the health of members of this body.” Members applauded Henderson’s speech and quickly approved the amendment. The amendment did not extend to the Democratic or Republican cloakrooms, the Speaker’s Lobby, or other areas of the House side of the Capitol. The 110th Congress (2007–2009), on the initiative of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, banned smoking throughout the Capitol in 2007.

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