What is God’s view of smoking? People addicted to cigarettes are quick to point out that the Bible says nothing about smoking. This is simply not true.
The Bible is a book of law. The laws, when obeyed, produce great happiness for man. There are biblical laws that regulate health, farming, diet, child rearing and marriage. If people would follow these laws, they would live an abundant life. Yet mankind consistently chooses to violate these laws!
It is true that nowhere in the Bible does God say, “Thou shalt not smoke.” But in the Sixth Commandment, He emphatically states, “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13, Jewish Publication Society translation). The question we need to answer is: Does smoking harm people?
The clinical facts have been fully tabulated on smoking. There is no doubt that there exists a direct relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Lung cancer does kill people. Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop warned, “Cigarette smoking is clearly identified as the chief preventable cause of death in our society and the most important public health issue of our time.” A pamphlet issued by the surgeon general’s office stated that smoking “causes more illness and death than all other drugs.” One of the most current U.S. surgeon general’s warnings on a pack of cigarettes states: “Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide.” Read that warning again! To inhale cigarette smoke is to inhale carbon monoxide! Nobody in a sane state of mind would purposely inhale carbon monoxide. To put it simply, smoking is suicide.
If you smoke or use any other form of tobacco, you are doing so contrary to the serious warnings against such habits. When you smoke, you are wrecking your health. Another of the surgeon general’s warnings on a pack of cigarettes states: “Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.”
If you smoke, then you are deliberately subjecting your body to serious physical harm. Here is a list of some of the chemicals found in unfiltered cigarette smoke besides carbon monoxide: hydroquinone, methacrolein, methyl alcohol, methylamine, nickel compounds, pyridine, dimethylamine, endrin, ethylamine, furfural, cadmium, methyl nitrite, ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide, ddt, and nicotine. Spilling these kinds of chemicals into a water supply system could carry heavy fines for any business. If you are a smoker, you are seriously polluting your own body, and you will pay a heavy personal penalty.
Besides lung cancer, you could also be subjecting your body to other life-threatening diseases such as bladder cancer, emphysema, high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, which can lead to a stroke. From God’s point of view, is there really any difference between pointing a gun to your head and pulling the trigger or lighting a cigarette? No! Pulling the trigger on a gun usually brings death instantly. But smoking also brings death—slow, agonizing death. Both are suicide! Both violate the Sixth Commandment. If you smoke, the most important thing you can do for your health is to quit the poisonous habit immediately.
Harmful to Others
Some argue, as long as my smoking doesn’t harm anyone else, it is okay to continue the habit. But scientists have also proven that the secondary smoke produced by smokers is just as lethal for the non-smoker living in a smoker’s environment. According to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, second-hand smoke contains twice as much tar and nicotine, three times as much of a certain kind of benozopyrene (a substance that can cause cancer), five times as much carbon monoxide (which robs the blood of life-giving oxygen), and 46 times as much ammonia (a potent eye and respiratory tract irritant) as the smoke that smokers inhale directly from their cigarettes!
Many countries and many U.S. states have passed laws banning smoking in public places for this reason. Smokers not only ruin their own health but the health of others as well. Smokers do harm to others—another definite violation of the Sixth Commandment.
A Physical Sin
Smoking is also a physical sin! You need to understand why.
There are many examples in the Bible where Christ showed people that their health problems were caused by sin. One example of this is the situation of the man sick of palsy. Jesus was returning home from a preaching tour. People brought to Him a man lying on a bed. Christ healed him by forgiving his sin. “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2). What sins were forgiven? The sins that caused the man to have palsy—physical sin.
The example in Matthew 9 contains very important knowledge concerning healing. There are many physical laws God has set in motion. These laws regulate the functions of our bodies—our health. If we break these laws, we sin and get sick. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
This is a difficult truth for most people to accept: Healing is the forgiveness of physical sin. Matthew 9 continues: “And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house” (verses 3-7).
If healing is the forgiveness of physical sin, then we must be sure to repent of our physical sins. Christ told the man healed by the pool at Bethesda, “[S]in no more …” (John 5:14).
If we do harmful things to our bodies like eating improper foods, or even too much of the right kinds of foods (gluttony), we sin against our bodies and a penalty is exacted. The penalty is sickness! In some cases, the penalty is only temporary—but in other cases, it can mean permanent injury or death.
Smoking and other uses of tobacco have been proven to be of definite harm to the body. Smoking will cause permanent damage to your lungs, which God designed and created to give you life-giving oxygen. Jesus Christ was beaten with many stripes, so we could be healed of sickness (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). How can we as Christians justify smoking and then expect Christ to heal us of the illnesses related to smoking? Smoking shows great disrespect for Christ’s sacrifice. If Jesus Christ was willing to be beaten with many stripes so we can be healed, then we should do everything possible to remain in good health! To do otherwise is sin!
A Spiritual Sin
Let’s go one step further. Why did God create our bodies? Paul gives us the answer: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy [Spirit] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God created our bodies to house His Holy Spirit. God created us physical human beings so that we can grow in His own character (Matthew 5:48). Is there any justification to defile God’s temple with a destructive habit like smoking? Does the use of tobacco glorify God? Does smoking please God, honor God or serve God’s purpose? Paul also instructed the Corinthians, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We should work hard to maintain good health so that God’s Spirit can work effectively in us.
Smoking also harms the smoker because it reinforces weak character traits. In other words, smoking is also a spiritual sin. In the Tenth Commandment, God commands, “Thou shalt not covet …” (Exodus 20:17). The question we need to answer here is: Is smoking lust?
Regarding the use of tobacco, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography:
I had learned that God’s law is His way of life. It is a basic philosophy of life. The whole law is summed up in the one word love. I knew that love is the opposite of lust. Lust is self-desire—pleasing the self only. Love means loving others. Its direction is not inward toward self alone, but outgoing, toward others. I knew the Bible teaches that “lust of the flesh” is the way of sin.
So now I began to apply the principle of God’s law.
I asked myself, “Why do I smoke?” To please others—to help others—to serve or minister to or express love toward others—or only to satisfy and gratify a desire of the flesh within my own self?
The answer was instantaneously obvious. I had to be honest with it. My only reason for smoking was lust of the flesh, and lust of the flesh is, according to the Bible, sin!
Smoking breaks the Tenth Commandment. As Mr. Armstrong wrote, a smoker can hardly claim that he smokes to please others. People smoke to satisfy the self. Smoking is a desire, a thirst for self-gratification. It is lust! Jesus Christ taught that we must uphold the spirit of the law (Matthew 5:27-28). In other words, we must be concerned just as much with what goes on in our minds as with our actions.
Spiritually speaking, our attitudes are all-important. What is the attitude of one who desires the effects of tobacco? It is one of coveting or inordinately desiring that which is damaging. The wrong desire of the mind—lusting after tobacco—is a spiritual sin—a sin against righteous character. Smoking is one of the ways of this world. As Christians, we are to come out of this world (Revelation 18:4; Romans 12:2).
Yes, You Can Stop
Many people say they cannot stop smoking. That is not true! Yes, you can stop smoking! How can you stop? Here is the method you should use. First, recognize that smoking is a sin that will keep you out of the Kingdom of God. Paul said, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). Smoking is covetousness and, as Paul states here, idolatry!
Sin no longer has power over the truly converted person (Romans 6:14). God promises to cleanse us of sin if we are willing to confess our sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In other words, God has obligated Himself to cleanse us of the sin of smoking if we repent, acknowledge our sin, and call upon Him for the extra help we need. God will help you if you humbly pray to Him for help (Psalm 103:11-14; Isaiah 55:7-9).
Stop all smoking completely. Smoking is an addiction. Trying to quit gradually only feeds the addiction. You should quit suddenly and totally! It is not easy to quit suddenly, but it is the most successful way. Commit yourself to quitting. Throw away all cigarettes, snuff or pipe tobacco. Get rid of all those things that focus your attention on smoking, such as favorite lighters, cigarette cases or pipes. Then never buy another ounce of tobacco!
The actual physical discomfort of nicotine withdrawal usually subsides within three to five days of your last cigarette (this differs with each person). The psychological withdrawal usually takes much longer. You may experience tension, hunger and symptoms of restlessness. These discomforts will subside. Usually the habit of smoking can be broken in 21 to 30 days.
Avoid compromising situations. Paul said, “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). You must apply this same principle to smoking. Avoid situations where you previously “lit up.” Don’t let other smokers, friends, relatives or stressful situations cause you to cave in to your old habit. Remember, just one puff will make you a habitual smoker again!
Spend time with non-smokers and people who will support your efforts to remain free of cigarettes. Another way to get your mind off your smoking habit is to replace it with some other activity. Studies have shown that it is much easier to break a bad habit and stay free of returning to that bad habit if we have something to replace it with. Try getting involved in some type of exercise program like walking, cycling or swimming, depending upon your age, athletic ability and health. Getting a physical check-up is a good idea before beginning any new exercise program. This is an excellent replacement habit.
Finally, don’t become discouraged or fear failure. And if you slip up and smoke—don’t give up! You can get rid of this life-threatening habit. When you do, you will not only live a better life physically, but also spiritually! ▪