Smoke-free policies have been an important tobacco control intervention. As recently as 20 years ago, few communities required workplaces and hospitality venues to be smoke-free, but today approximately 11% of the world's population live in countries with laws that require these places to be smoke-free. This paper briefly summarises important milestones in the history of indoor smoke-free policies, the role of scientific research in facilitating their adoption, a framework for smoke-free policy evaluation and industry efforts to undermine regulations. At present, smoke-free policies centre on workplaces, restaurants and pubs. In addition, many jurisdictions are now beginning to implement policies in outdoor areas and in shared multiunit housing settings. The future of smoke-free policy development depends on credible scientific data that documents the health risks of secondhand smoke exposure. Over the next 20 years smoke-free policies will very likely extend to outdoor and private areas, and changes in the types of tobacco products that are consumed may also have implications for the nature and scope of the smoke-free policies of the future.