"The Prohibition Against Smoking" (Cont'd)

3. The Prohibition Against Smoking in Other Peoples’ Presence
Another Halakhic question which concerns the problem of smoking is,
“Is it permissible for a non-smoker to demand of a smoker to refrain
from smoking on the grounds that the smoke bothers him. It goes
without saying that in the house of the non-smoker, the right to
decide whether or not one smokes therein is his own. Hence, a guest
cannot demand that his host refrain from smoking in his presence, just
as he cannot himself smoke if the host if desires that he not.
The question is, what is the rule in public places, or in places which
are jointly owned. Can, in such circumstances, a non-smoker demand of
a smoker to refrain from smoking on the grounds that the smoke bothers

The Talmud (Baba Batra 23a) teaches us that even in a private domain
one must be careful not to cause damage to his fellow. For example, it
is forbidden for a homeowner to create a stench or smoke in his own
domain if it will be carried over into the domain of another causing
him discomfort. This is a clear proof that smoke is considered by
Jewish law as substance which damages and causes discomfort and that a
person can demand of his neighbor that he not create smoke which will
enter his domain and cause him uneasiness. This rule is true of a
public place as well: One can demand that his fellow refrain from
smoking. And if there are two office workers together in the same
room, one can tell the other not to smoke.
And even if over a long period of time one worker demonstrated no
opposition to his neighbor’s smoking, he still reserves the right to
demand that his coworker refrain from smoking. And if the smoker, in
such a situation, claims that because he has been smoking in this
place for years and nobody ever asked him to stop before, and since
this has become the established custom he ought to be able to continue
in his ways, it is, all the same, permissible according to Jewish law
to demand that the worker stop smoking. This is due to the fact that
it is well known that smoking greatly irritates certain people, and
nobody has the right to rely upon established custom where such a
custom involves discomfort to his neighbor.

All of the above is true even if we say that smoking does not affect
the health of those who inhale cigarette smoke, but merely causes
discomfort and unpleasantness; but today, with all that we know about
the health hazards involved in smoking even to those who only happen
to be in the smoker’s vicinity, the prohibition is all the more
severe. For example, studies have shown that when one of the members
of a couple smoke, the chances of the partner’s contracting cancer as
a result of cigarette smoke is three times greater than in couples
where neither smoke.
It is worth mentioning, in this light, that our beloved mentor, Rabbi
Tzvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook, zt”l, instructed his students in the Mercaz
HaRav Yeshiva not to smoke in the study-hall of the Yeshiva. Rabbi
Moshe Feinstein also forbade smoking in yeshiva study-halls and
synagogues because smoking causes damage even to passive bystanders.

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