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What is the Jewish view on smoking cigarettes?

by Dr. Avraham Steinberg

Encyclopedia of Jewish Meidcal Ethics posted on www.medethics.org.il

  

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The following is an excerpt from the section on Smoking in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics by Avraham Steinberg, M.D.:

Some rabbis rule that nowadays1 the dangers of smoking are known and, therefore, it is forbidden biblically to smoke.2 These Rabbis point to several biblical concerns such as "take heed to thyself and take care of thy life"3 and "take good care of your lives"4 and the prohibition of destroying one’s body.

Other Rabbis agree that smoking is a pernicious habit and should be strongly discouraged and prevented, if possible, especially among young people, but rule that there is no formal legal prohibition in Judaism.5

Almost all Rabbis agree that if a person is seriously bothered by being in a smoking environment, he may demand that smokers refrain from smoking in his presence or go elsewhere to smoke.6 The smokers must abide by that request even if they have to leave the house of Torah study.7 Smokers who harm others by their smoking must distance themselves from the public places. Similarly, in a private house one tenant can prevent another from smoking if the smoke penetrates the wall, doors and hallways into the non-smoker’s apartment. Smokers must be far enough removed from other people so that the non-smokers are not bothered or harmed by the passive smoking.8

Published with permission from www.medethics.org.il. Click here for complete article.

Footnotes

  • 1. AM Ed. note: This is only in light of recent findings. Until the mid-late 20th century there was no Halachic opinion that prohibited it.
  • 2. Responsa Be’er Moshe, Part 6 #160:9; Responsa Tzitz Eliezer, Part 15 #39 and Part 17 #21-22; Aseh Lecha Rav, Part 1 #42, Part 2 #1, Part 3 #18, Part 7 #67 and Part 9 #28. See also F. Rosner, Modern Medicine and Jewish Ethics, 1986, pp.363ff.
  • 3. Deuteronomy 4:9
  • 4. ibid 4:15
  • 5. Chafetz Chayim, Zechor LeMiriam #23 and Lekutei Amarim #13 and Torat Habayit #4; Responsa Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah Part 2 #49 and Choshen Mishpat Part 2 #76; Responsa Minchat Shlomo Part 2 #58:6; Rabbi Y.S. Elyahsiv, Am Hatorah, 2nd edit, folio 3, 5742 (1982); Responsa Az Nidbaru, Part 9 #65; Responsa Mishanah Halachot, Part 9 #161; Responsa Beit Avi Part 4 #9:3; Yalkut Yosef Part 3 #216:12
  • 6. AM Ed. note: This is not necessarily connected with the concept of "second hand smoke", but is a general Halachic concern when you do something that affects the air quality of those around you. See Talmud Bava Batra chapter 2.
  • 7. Responsa Iggrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat, Part 2 #18; Responsa Tzitz Eliezer, Part 15 #39 and Part 17 #22.
  • 8. Responsa Tzitz Eliezer, Part 15 #39.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.