- “Now hold on there, pretty lady. The only people who face capital punishment in Rapture are smugglers. And that's because they put everything we've worked for at risk. Imagine if the Soviets found out about our wonderful city, or even the U.S. government. Our secrecy is our shield.”
- ― Public Address Announcement[src]
In Rapture, certain items were eventually labeled contraband and barred from importation into the city. Many of these items were outlawed due to conflict with the ideals of the city, that they competed with businesses needed to make Rapture self-sufficient, and that importing anything could eventually lead to a security breach, revealing the existence and location of Rapture to the outside world.
- “A Rapture Reminder: wanting an item from the surface is forgivable, buying or smuggling one into Rapture is not. Stay on the level, and out of trouble.”
- ― Public Address Announcement[src]
With so many objects being labeled contraband in Rapture, a large and profitable market for these illegally smuggled goods was created. Frank Fontaine swiftly saw this business opportunity and used Fontaine Fisheries as a cover for his smuggling operations. The high demand for smuggled items was great enough that Fontaine quickly became very wealthy, earning enough to establish Fontaine Futuristics. Even many upperclass citizens and businesses like the Kashmir Restaurant bought smuggled goods.
When it was realized that a large scale smuggling ring was operating in Rapture, the Council made smuggling a crime punishable by hanging, bringing the death penalty to Rapture. This was met with outrage among some, but seen as a necessary evil by others. Fontaine was eventually taken down and the sheer size of the smuggling business was exposed. Crates of smuggled goods seized by Ryan Security can still be found all over the city, along with many of the locations where they were kept hidden, revealing just how many people were involved in the transport and purchase of smuggled goods.
- The Christian Holy Bible (most notably scattered throughout the game, however, all religious items or texts are considered to be lies by Andrew Ryan, but still are NOT illegal to own).
- Other religious items such as Buddha statues or Indian artifacts (seen during There's Something in the Sea's events).
- Films from outside Rapture; evident by an open suitcase with movie reels inside underneath a corpse labeled "smuggler", and piles of film canisters piled with other Contraband.
- According to one of Peach Wilkins' removed audio diaries, Smuggling is a Crime, Frank Fontaine's crew also smuggled beef and real tobacco from the surface, as it was expensive or could not be found in the underwater city.
- Some brands of cigars found in Fort Frolic came from the surface (Habana Especial).
- Old Tom Whiskey was imported from Kentucky, as the quality of alcohol steadily decreased due to a lack of skill and quality control.
- The fashion and hairstyles of Rapture are identical to that on the surface of the time. This means that fashion references from the surface were smuggled down to Rapture. Notably during Burial at Sea, women can be seen wearing Dior's bar suit from the "New Look" collection, which was created after Rapture's completion.
- Many weapons are of a make and model produced on the surface.
- The Bobby Darin song "Beyond the Sea" came out in 1959. This would seem to indicate that Fontaine's or other smugglers had continued operations during the civil war.
- The audio diaries of Oscar Calraca and Louie McGraff indicate that cats and sometimes even people were smuggled into the city.
- In a room filled with smugglers' crates at The Fighting McDonagh's Tavern, many stacks of newspapers titled "The Daily Post" can be found. It is implied these newspapers are from a city other than Rapture, informing people about news on the surface and potentially causing them to want to return there.
- Crates of various kinds of alcohol products marked Rapture Port Authority, which have been stolen from that source — seen in Smuggler's Hideout.
- Cocaine was listed in the notebook of Mickael Lasko, an Ukrainian smuggler shot dead.?