I was wondering about the evangelical opposition to drinking and smoking. The early American Church (I am Canadian), with its European origins, did not make drinking and smoking an issue. How did this disapproval originate historically?—Derrick

Though Christian objections to alcohol and tobacco may be called "Puritanical" by some, these stances are actually of much more recent vintage. In fact, the Puritans drank beer. The Mayflower log book from 1620 records that one of the reasons that ship stopped at Plymouth, rather than searching for a more hospitable spot further south, was "our victuals being much spent, especially our beere."

American colonists soon took a fancy to native tobacco as well. Some colonial leaders in New England, though, opposed smoking right away, primarily because of health concerns. For example, the governor of New Amsterdam (now New York) banned smoking in 1639, and the general court of Connecticut declared in 1650 that only persons over 21 who had a prescription for tobacco could smoke. Massachusetts outlawed smoking in 1683. Meanwhile, Anglican clergymen in Virginia were routinely paid in tobacco rather than currency.

Concerted campaigns against drinking and smoking began in the early nineteenth century. Alcohol—particularly hard liquor—was the primary concern. Coalitions of pastors, civic leaders, and especially women argued that liquor destroyed lives, ravaged families, eroded morality, and contributed to crime. Drinkers were called upon to "temper" their habits, switching from spirits to beer, or to abstain from alcohol completely. Smoking got lumped in with the temperance campaign because it was reputed to disease both mind and body, and because it was said to dry the mouth, ...

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