A “speakeasy” was a place where alcoholic drinks were illegally sold. The term “speakeasy” means that customers should inquire secretly about the illegal product; “speakeasy” has been cited in print since 1889 and was a popular term during the national prohibition against alcoholic drinks in the United States, 1920-1933.
Smoking in bars and restaurants began to be banned in many jurisdictions in the United States, leading to the term “smokeasy” (also “smoke-easy"). “Smokeasy” has been cited in print since at least 1931. when it was printed in a satirical newspaper article predicting such smoking bans titled “Phantasy of the Year 2031.” New York City passed a 2002 law prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants, and the term “smokeasy” was popularized.
A smokeasy (also spelled smoke-easy or smokeeasy) is a business, especially a bar or drinking venue, which allows smoking despite a smoking ban enacted as a criminal law or an occupational safety and health regulation. The term is also used to describe locations and events promoted by tobacco companies to avoid or evade bans on smoking. The word was added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2005, although it was used as early as 1978. It is a portmanteau of smoking and speakeasy.
7 November 1931, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, pg. 8, col. 3:
PHANTASY OF THE YEAR 2031.
(Clipped from a newspaper of that year.)
Agents, who entered the reputed smokeasy from three entrances, arrested three men, confiscated elaborate pipes for supposed tobacco use and seized 120 half-pound bags of “Old Nic,” 249 boxes of matches, seventeen ash trays and a mixed assortment of cigarets and cigars, the latter a fancy rolled form used in pre-prohibition days.
18 March 1962, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Art Buchwald Reports: Stogie Hijacking Is Next Step in Cycle,” sec. 2, pg. 2, col. 6:
“We’re starting a series of smokeasies for cigar smokers.”
Google News Archive
14 January 1964, The Press-Courier (Oxnard, CA), “Mayor Hints Non-smokers Help Enforce Cigarette Ban,” pg. 2, cols. 2-3:
EASTLAND, Tex. (UPI)—Imagine a grown man, law abiding in all respects and with no police record, sneaking a smoke behind locked doors and hunted like a common criminal.
Some wondered if it would create “boot leg cigarettes” or “smoke-easies” where confirmed smokers could come and inhale to their heart’s content.
Google News Archive
25 March 1965, The Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, FL), Earl Wilson syndicated entertainment column, pg. 22, col. 4:
Will the 10c-a-pack cigaret tax bring smoke-easies and buttlegging to NYC?
New York (NY) Times
Business Diary: June 26 - July 1
By Hubert B. Herring
Published: July 03, 1994
Smoke-easies? Not Just Yet
Tobacco companies have been taking out ads raising alarms about cigarettes being banned, but David Kessler, head of the F.D.A., said no such drastic moves are contemplated. In fact, he said, he hopes to avoid big regulatory changes—in spite of recent disclosures about addiction. It gets tricky, though, because if the F.D.A. declares nicotine an addictive drug—the almost inevitable next turn in this fast-moving plot—the legal wheels start turning on autopilot: if it’s a drug, the F.D.A. must declare it safe, which is impossible.
Posted on November 29, 2002
(SMOHK.ee.zee) n. A place where cigarettes are smoked illegally; a private smoking club. Also: smoke easy, smokeasy.
The New York Sun (New York, NY)
The Smoke Easies
Editorial of The New York Sun | May 27, 2003
One of the most notable developments in the city in the past few weeks has been the spreading defiance of the prohibition on smoking in bars and restaurants.
New York City • Restaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • Sunday, February 10, 2013 • Permalink