Eternal Prohibition

Drugs Are Bad. So bad that even in the future, 20th-century drug laws remain unchanged. Nevertheless, alcohol and tobacco remain legal, as are 'stims'. Apparently, the citizens of The Future are more traditional than we realize. This is most frequent in TV, presumably because producers are unwilling to risk controversy by including real drugs, but appears in other media as well.

Strangely, many future societies seem to have forgotten modern recreational chemistry, and have just one or two illicit drugs (e.g., Dust and Stims in Babylon 5), which you will never see a character actually using, but which is clearly bad.

Ironically, with some cities now banning excessively large sugary soft drinks (or, more precisely, the cups in which they are served) due to worries about obesity and diabetes, this trope may look less and less like fiction as the years go by - only even more bizarre, with more and more harmless or at least unobjectionable substances now considered unhealthy as Science Marches On.

Subtrope of Society Marches On. See Eternal Sexual Freedom and High Times Future for modern mores working in the opposite direction.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Serial Experiments Lain plays this one: it's immediately obvious that 14-year-old Toru is doing wrong every time he's smoking or drinking at the Cyberia. There are stronger drugs, such as Accela, a type of "nanomachine amphetamine", is very obviously illegal, gives you instant Caffeine Bullet Time, and makes users homicidal and/or suicidal.
  • Bleach has two characters, before a fight, having a genial conversation. Then one offers to share a drink with the other; "I can't, I'm a minor!" The refuser being in high school, and the presumptive host being several hundred years old....

     Comic Books  

  • Judge Dredd. In Mega-City One, coffee and sugar are illegal, since they are addictive. Synthetics are used instead, but synthi-coffee was too good and became considered addictive, so it was outlawed. Hence, people drink synthi-synthi-coffe.

     Fan Fiction  

  • In Diaries of a Madman, alcohol is banned in Equestria following a Noodle Incident with one of the princesses, though Celestia turns a blind eye to Nav sharing secrets on how to make it. It's averted with most other drugs however, which are freely sold and consumed.


  • In The 6th Day, tobacco is an illicit substance, and Arnie's character enjoys an illicit puff on one of his trademark cigars.
  • Likewise in Demolition Man. The first thing Human Popsicle Sly Stallone does on awakening is ask for a cigarette, only to be told it's illegal.
    • Anything "not good for you is banned". Using the logic; it is not good, it must be bad, therefore it is illegal. This includes alcohol, meat, spicy foods, physical contact, swearing...
  • Happens literally in the 1930's sci-fi musical comedy Just Imagine, where Prohibition is still going strong in the far-flung future of 1980.
  • In Escape from L.A., the US has become a totalitarian state with a permanent Christian fundamentalist President. Naturally, he immediately outlaws many of the things we enjoy today including smoking, alcohol, red meat, and premarital sex. It's a good thing Snake doesn't much care for laws.


  • Used in a H.P. Lovecraft humour piece Old Bugs, which he wrote in 1919, which relates an encounter between a drunkard and a naive young man in a speakeasy for illegal whiskey-drinkers in 1950. (Lovecraft, who didn't drink, wrote it, however, to jokingly warn a friend, a.k.a. the "Old Bugs" of the title, as to what would happen to him if he kept on drinking.)
  • In E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lensman series, a good deal of the Galactic Patrol's efforts are spent thwarting illegal trade in "Thionite." When one Lensman goes undercover to infiltrate a Thionite trafficking organization, we discover that even plain old morphine is apparently still illegal.
    • In many ways, Smith was a visionary (much of his military technology puts both Death Stars firmly in the shade). In some others, he was very definitely a product of his time and it shows in the writing. Thionite was one of his more lethal contrivances, in that unlike all the others, continued use of this drug would ALWAYS lead eventually to a fatal overdose.

     Live Action TV  

  • Battlestar Galactica: in early seasons the characters appear to live in the 1930s, drinking whiskey and smoking cigars. Partially subverted in the new series where 'Chamalla' is a legal hallucinogen sometimes used for religious purposes. And in one flashback President Roslin and Admiral Adama enjoy an unnamed substance strongly resembling Marijuana. note 

    Fighter pilots are encouraged to take stims, which can lead to addiction if not carefully monitored, as exemplified by Kat.
  • In contradiction of the trope's description, both those drugs are used by main characters in Babylon 5. As it turns out, there is very good reason that "Dust" is illegal—despite seemingly being Space Cocaine, it actually temporarily gives the user Psychic Powers, namely the power to Mind Rape someone (which G'Kar does to Londo after he gets his hands on some). As for stims, which aren't actually illegal, a major plot arc is Doctor Franklin's addiction and recovery. The trope is also averted in that coffee is still in use, albeit hard to get for logistics reasons, and several characters are alcoholics. One early plot also involves a dispute over a plant that the Narn use as religious incense but the Centauri use as a recreational drug.
  • Andromeda has obviously no problem with drinking. Though, nicotine seems to have become obsolete. The only drug left seems to be 'Flash' which is used as eye drops.
  • In the 1970-1 series UFO the characters smoke in computer rooms, medical areas, and closed environments like SHADO's underground headquarters, submarines and the Moonbase. Some scenes look like they've been filmed through a minor fog.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase: In the Jovian Republic opiates, cocaine, any of the various drugs in the setting that use nanotech, and tobacco are illegal. Though alcohol and cannabis are allowed. In less conservative polities, that is to say, the rest of the solar system, drug laws vary a great deal.

     Video Games  

  • Somewhat justified the Crusader games, where the future world government is run a repressive Mega Corp. that, while it doesn't care about worker safety, also probably wouldn't even allow things like cigarette breaks.
  • EVE Online:
    • Played with: while plain old street narcotics and heavy-dose, skill-affecting "combat boosters" are nearly universally illegal, there exist versions of the latter that are universally legal; it's a bit like banning coffee, except for decaf.
    • Everything is legal in 0.0 space, where there is no police but that which the players muster themselves. And just like in the real world, drug manufacturing is quite profitable.
  • In the Wing Commander universe, Privateer allows players to smuggle two illegal drugs: "Brilliance" and "Ultimate". Getting caught with either means a shootout with police. You can, however, carry as much alcohol aboard your ship as it can hold without any paperwork, and not get in trouble.
  • In the X-Universe series, the Prohibition apparently never ended; Space Fuel (also known as Argon Whiskey) is illegal in known space, as is Teladi Space Weed (except in Teladi sectors). However, Space Fuel seems to be legally manufactured by some Argon stations, as the police ignore them (while they'll blow up yours. Hypocritical jerks...). Amusingly, carrying Space Fuel in the cargo bay is illegal everywhere, so you can park a ship outside of a Space Fuel Distillery and scan the cargo of every cargo ship leaving the station, and then attack them for violating the law.
    • Spirits are made legal in X Rebirth, set several decades after the end of the main series, but carrying them without a license will get you shot up by the police.
  • Trading in narcotics is a surefire way to get a criminal record in all installments of the Elite franchise; only planets that are explicitly in a state of total anarchy allow you to buy and sell them the old-fashioned way. Some planets also ban alcoholic beverages as well, usually for religious reasons.

     Web Comics  

  • In The Lydian Option, "Janta Leaf" is portrayed as a mild drug being smuggled by the protagonist - humans view it as a minor offense, but the Tha'Latta punish it with permanent imprisonment.
  • Played straight with the United World in Escape from Terra, but the Belters avert it along with every other "victimless crime". In one case a hippie who had to leave California in a hurry gets a steady job on Ceres growing cannabis in the agricultural tower, while his "friend" the drug dealer finds it hard to get customers.
  • In Quantum Vibe Nicole once gets arrested when some Lunar cops plant a drug known as "cheez"note  on her. She comes from the much more libertarian L5 station and had no idea what they were talking about until a lawyer explained it.
  • The far-future world of The Dragon Doctors has an ongoing drug war, and although the details aren't clear, a Cowboy Cop brags about the fact that she allowed herself to be irreversibly turned from a man into a woman to arrest a dealer.

     Real Life  

  • Some religions, most notably Islam, strictly forbid any "intoxicants" such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs or sometimes even coffee.
  • Islamic Sharia rulings have oscillated back and forth on certain issues. Caffeine, upon discovery, was declared haram (Forbidden). Nobody listened. It was then called halal (Permitted). Smoking was never declared haram. These same people will absolutely condemn alcohol, which was never explicitly declared haram in the Quran. And of course, there are still many Muslims who do drink, not that they'd ever admit it, at least to the Imam.
  • Today, in The United States, some counties and Native reservations are still banning the use of alcohol.
    • Mississippi remained dry until 1966.
    • Kansas continued to prohibit general on-premises liquor sales until 1987.
  • In Australia, some Aboriginal areas of the Northern Territory are dry, though this is controversial.
  • The Hays Code was written in 1930, so it insisted that movies featuring liquor portray the consumption of alcohol as illegal. When Prohibition was repealed three years later, the Hays Office amended the document to insist that movies portray the consumption of alcohol as immoral.