Illegal Not To Smile In Pocatello Idaho

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Illegal Not To Smile In Pocatello IdahogrinImagine this, it is actually illegal not to smile in Pocatello, Idaho. While the idea itself to try and make people more cheerful isn’t a bad one, making a law that forces people to smile isn’t the best way of achieving this goal. This particular local law is actually yet another case of a crazy law that was once enacted and allowed to sit idle, either because it was forgotten, or never enforced. In this particular case, the law was forgotten for nearly 40 years before it was dug up again as part of an advertising campaign. So what is behind the law making it illegal not to smile in Pocatello, Idaho?

Introduction of the law making it illegal not to smile in Pocatello, Idaho

In 1948 the city of Pocatello had suffered a sever winter, which had left the city employees and its residents a little melancholy. The mayor, George Phillips, passed a tongue in cheek ordinance, known as the smile ordinance, which made it illegal not to smile. The ordinance was passed, but it was soon forgotten and it lay, completely unnoticed for nearly 40 years.

The local law was unintentionally left on the books until staff, and then a reporter discovered it. In 1987 the reporter wrote an article on the forgotten ordinance in the Idaho State Journal. It was here that the  American Bankers Association picked it up.

The  American Bankers Association decided to use this outdated law in their national advertising campaign in an attempt to convince the United States Congress to modernize banking laws. They used it to emphasize outdated laws. Following the advertising campaign, representatives of the association were invited to the city in December 1987 where they declared the city the “U.S. Smile Capital.”

But is the law ever enforced?

Not really. The city decided to introduce an annual event called  “Smile Days”. During the event they have a poster contest for elementary school children, and mock arrests for those who aren’t smiling.



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