addiction, smoking

Is smoking a sin? If not, why should Christians not smoke?

1 Corinthians 6:12 – All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

By Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC

Can smoking be considered “beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12)? Can it be said that smoking is truly honoring God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20)? Can a person honestly smoke “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)? We believe that the answer to these three questions is a resounding “no.” As a result, we believe that smoking is a sin and therefore should not be practiced by followers of Jesus Christ. (https://www.gotquestions.org/smoking-Christian-sin.html ¶ 2)

What does the Bible say about smoking? Smoking is never mentioned specifically in the Scriptures because it did not exist at that point in time. Smoking did not become a popular pastime until the 1600’s in America.  “In 1965, Congress required all cigarette packages distributed in the United States to carry a health warning, and since 1970 this warning is made in the name of the Surgeon General. In 1969, cigarette advertising on television and radio was banned, effective September 1970.” (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018, ¶ 6) Regardless of the legality of smoking, there are certain biblical principles that do apply to smoking. What are these principles?

First, let’s look at the principle shared in I Corinthians 6:12. Matthew Henry wrote in Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (1997, Nelson), as cited at Bible Hub,  that  at the time of Paul’s writing many Corinthians were of the opinion that all things were permissible and saw no harm in doing whatever they wanted. Paul opposed this opinion.

There is a liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, in which we must stand fast. But surely a Christian would never put himself into the power of any bodily appetite. The body is for the Lord; is to be an instrument of righteousness to holiness, therefore is never to be made an instrument of sin. (Henry, 1997, pp. 1102-1103)

As a Board Certified Christian Counselor, I understand that the phrase “I will not be brought under the power of any” in 1 Corinthians 6:12 refers to addictions. It’s commonly known that cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance affecting the brain. Knowing this, I conclude that cigarette smoking, and any other addiction is sinful. Furthermore, not only is the brain affected by nicotine, but according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking–50 Years of Progress, as cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. (CDC, Smoking and Death section, ¶ 1)

Health statistics of cigarette smokers compared with non-smokers show the following:

Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.1

  • Estimates show smoking increases the risk:
    • For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times1,6
    • For stroke by 2 to 4 times1
    • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times1
    • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times1
  • Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost. (CDC, Smoking and Increased Healthy Risks section)

Are the above statistics glorifying or honoring to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31)? I think not. Furthermore, I believe smokers need to think not only of their own health but the health of others around them. Let’s consider the effects of second-hand smoke. Remember smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes all can create second-hand smoke. According to WebMD Staff (2018) in an article entitled “The Effects of Secondhand Smoke“, smoke from tobacco contains at least 250 chemicals known to cause illness. Second-hand smoke is especially harmful to children because they have a higher heart rate breathing in more smoke than adults. Conditions children exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk for, according to the WebMD site, include:

WebMD staff (2018) also report that pregnant women who smoke are putting their baby at risk for harm. In smoking pregnant women chances are greater for  a premature birth of the baby and the following conditions in the child: “low birth “weight, SIDS, limited mental ability, trouble with learning, and ADHD. The more cigarettes a mother-to-be smokes, the greater the danger to her baby.” (The Effects of Secondhand Smoke article, Dangers for Children section, ¶ 3)

Are there other mandates of God that smokers violate? With all the ways a smoker is putting others in harm’s way, I also believe they are breaking God’s mandate in John 13:34-35 to love others. Love does not hurt others, as in exposing others to harmful tobacco smoke, but; love love edifies and builds up another.

In Romans 14:21 and Romans 15:1-2, we are taught not to offend our fellow-Christians and to take care to please our neighbors that they might be saved. While smoking will not be noticed by some and might please a very few, most people will be displeased by it and quite a few will be greatly offended by it. Soul winning is more difficult for smokers. In Philippians 2:3-4, we read “. . – Let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others”. In other words, be considerate. Be thoughtful. Smokers cannot be thoughtful when smoking in a non-smokers car, it will be weeks before he will be able to get all the odor from the upholstery.

In a house-, cigarette odor will linger for 2 or 3 days. To non-smokers this is intolerable, to a few individuals smoke from other’s cigarettes can produce dangerous toxic reactions. Smoking is against the principles of being careful not to offend and of being considerate.

Smoking is wasteful of time and of money. Christians are to be faithful stewards (Read Matthew 25:14-30), for, like our bodies, our money and our time, are not ours, but Christ’s. (The Interactive Bible, 2018, ¶ 3-5)

***

References

Henry, M. (1997). Matthew Henry’s concise commentary on the whole Bible. Nashville: Nelson.

The Interactive Bible. (2018). Cigarette Smoking and the Bible. Retrieved January 8, 2018 from http://www.bible.ca/s-cigarettes.htm

U.S. National Library of Medicine (2018). The Reports of the Surgeon General; The 1964 Report on Smoking and Health. Retrieved January 8, 2018 from https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/Narrative/NN/p-nid/60 

WebMD (2018). Homepage. Available: https://www.webmd.com/

WebMD Staff (2018). “The Effects of Secondhand Smoke”. Retrieved January 8, 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/effects-of-secondhand-smoke

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