Colonial Williamsburg bans 20th-century tobacco

WILLIAMSBURG, VA. — WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Colonial Williamsburg is snuffing th use of tobacco in its portrayal of a state built on the tobacco trade.

As of Jan. 1, smoking is prohibited inside all historical buildings, for costumed and non-costumed workers alike.


But interpreter John Lowe said the ban won't hamper his presentation of life in 18th-century Virginia. For five years, he has carried a tobacco-less clay pipe in his portrayal of carpenter Benjamin Powell.

"I rub it around and hold it so it has the effect of being used," Mr. Lowe said. "It's a very useful prop, but it's still just a prop."


Characters meeting in Raleigh Tavern also hold pipes without smoking them, said Bill White, director for interpretation.

Interpreters still build fires in kitchens and outlying workshops, but most fireplaces are not lighted anymore because their smoke is considered harmful.

"I think the visitors understand that we've compromised, but the illusion is still there. Everyone knows the 18th century is gone," Mr. White said.

Colonial Williamsburg declared the smoking ban to improve the health of employees, decrease the threat of fire and reduce damage to antique fabrics, furniture and paintings, said John Bacon, associate general counsel for Colonial Williamsburg.

"There are certainly some historical ironies here. But this is really a nationwide trend. If anything, Colonial Williamsburg is a bit behind the trend," Mr. Bacon said.