5. Educating Against Smoking
Having learned that the Torah forbids smoking because it is
detrimental to health and endangers the lives of both the smoker and
those in his proximity, it is obvious that we must educate every
individual not to begin smoking, for before one picks up this bad
habit it is easy enough to refrain from it. But, after having become
addicted to the habit and the nicotine, it becomes extremely difficult
All the same, one who is already addicted to cigarettes is obligated
by the Torah to stop smoking. Indeed, once one has stopped smoking,
the danger of cancer or heart disease gradually decreases, to the
point where, after ten years, the chances of contracting heart disease
are no different than those of someone who never smoked. The
heightened danger of cancer disappears after fifteen years (Asya vol.
5, pgs. 224 & 235).
And, in truth, though the impression is that it is very difficult to
stop smoking, experience shows that via information and education even
one who is addicted to smoking is capable of stopping. For example, in
the year that studies proving the dangers of smoking were publicized
64% of doctors smoked, and when they were asked if they felt that it
was possible to stop smoking, they answered in the negative. Yet, ten
years later, only 16% of doctors continued smoking. From here, the
conclusion is that a clear understanding of the dangers of smoking is
an extremely effective way of putting an end to the habit. Hence,
smokers are obligated to study about the dangers of smoking, and to do
all that is in their power to kick the habit.
True, sometimes the mental state of the smoker, or the environmental
pressures that he faces don’t permit him to take upon himself the task
of quitting, and in such a situation we might consider him a victim of
circumstances beyond his control – force majeure. Sometimes it is even
better to suggest that such an individual not even attempt to stop
smoking, for such an endeavor is liable to take its toll on his entire
being and disturb his mental balance. But, the great majority of
people are capable of taking the steps necessary to quit smoking.
As a side note, it is also important to point out that habitual
smoking constitutes a great waste of money. A person who smokes two
boxes of regular cigarettes every day for fifty years, has spent
almost 150,000 shekels. If he had saved that same amount of money, he
would have in hand at the age of seventy, more than 300,000 shekels.