Tobacco smoking is an activity that has come under fairly stringent controls in recent years. These days in most countries, smoking is prohibited in most or all indoor public spaces and inside public transport such as aircraft, buses and trains. Restrictions and enforcement vary considerably from place to place; for details see the rest of this article and our articles on particular destinations.

Smokeless tobacco products are also regulated in most parts of the world.

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Travel literature?

Many countries have restrictions on the quantity of cigarettes or tobacco that can be brought into the country. In many countries, tobacco products are taxed heavily, so those importing more than a few packets of these products should expect to pay import duties. On the other hand, many countries also have facilities that permit departing travellers to purchase these same products, duty free, at the border, as they leave the country.

Tobacco products vary enormously in price around the world, mainly because different countries or states tax them differently. For example, the price of a pack of Marlboro (converted to US dollars) ranges from about $1.50 in the Philippines (where they are common, made locally under license) to over $10 in Canada (where they are an imported luxury, subject first to duty and then to stiff taxes). It is common for smokers visiting countries with lower costs to stock up, and even non-smokers may buy cheap cigarettes as gifts.

Import restrictions and the penalties for violating them also vary considerably; check local information for each planned destination. The commonest rule allows a carton of 200 cigarettes (in some places, plus other products such as cigars) provided you have been out of the country at least a few days. Some places are much stricter; Hong Kong, for example, allow only one pack (20 cigarettes), apparently because the government wants to protect its tax revenue. This restriction is mainly to keep out the much cheaper cigarettes from China and enforcement concentrates on Chinese visitors; travellers from other places are rarely bothered.

“If you smoke, we ask you please not to burn the sheets, the pillows, or the furniture”. Sign in a hotel in Zaragoza, 2007

People who smoke products other than tobacco should be aware that cannabis is prohibited in many countries, while opium and crack are banned more-or-less everywhere, and other recreational substances tend to be banned as soon as the authorities become aware of them.

In most legal systems having some item with traces of a drug, perhaps a used pipe or a pouch with few milligrams left in the bottom, counts legally as possession of the drug; if you do smoke such things and are travelling, do a thorough clean-up before any border. The safest course is to give away or throw away any item that might have traces. In some places even having “drug paraphernalia” is illegal; just carrying an unused pipe can get you in trouble if the authorities decide it is a hash pipe. If you are going to cross a border with such a pipe, it is a good idea to smoke some tobacco in it first.

Many countries impose severe penalties for attempting to import even a small quantity of an illegal drug. Even countries where marijuana is legal often ban importation because the government wants to control quality and/or to protect its tax revenue. Canada also bans exportation. Penalties range up to quite long prison sentences and, in a few countries, even to a death sentence, which applies even if you are unaware that drugs are in your possession. At the very least, in most countries, you will not be permitted to cross the border with the products still in your possession. Know the local laws.

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