Is Smoking a Sin?
By Guest Author Thomas Sands
First Published 24 Jun 2013
It may come as a surprise to many of my former acquaintances that I occasionally smoke a cigar or pipe, about once a week. Does this conflict with the commonly held belief among Christians that smoking is a sin? Yes it does. In this article I will explain my beliefs on this issue, and examine whether or not I believe it is a sin.
When I was a youngster, both my mom and dad smoked cigarettes. In addition, my dad occasionally enjoyed smoking a pipe, and less frequently, a cigar. I remember the smell of the pipe tobacco. It was a pleasant odor, and as a kid I would occasionally open up his pipe tobacco pouch and smell it.
When I turned 50, I started thinking about smoking a pipe, and in February of 2012, I purchased my first pipe. For a few months I experimented with it, and then thought about trying a cigar. After my first cigar, I was hooked (not thru addiction to nicotine). The benefit of cigars…you don’t have to constantly relight it. After 16 months, I now smoke a cigar once a week, with an occasional pipe. At the end of a work week, it’s nice to relax by myself on the porch, just listening to music and smoking my pipe or cigar. It’s a chance to unwind by myself after a stressful week.
Back to the question of sin. There are two issues. First issue….many claims that it is a sin come from our bodies being a temple of God, so we shouldn’t do things that harm our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I completely agree with this verse. When it comes to tobacco, nobody can dispute the fact that many health problems arise from tobacco use, especially cigarette use. But there is a major difference between cigarettes and pipes & cigars. Cigarette smokers inhale smoke into their lungs, whereas pipe and cigar smokers do not. This one fact makes a huge difference in the health risks.
Statistics show that cigarette smoking increases your risk of coronary heart disease by 2-4 times. It increases your chance of stroke 2-5 times. In men, it increases your chance of lung cancer by a whopping 23 times, in women 13 times. And it increases chronic bronchitis and emphysema by 12-13 times.
What about pipe and cigar smokers? The number of studies of the effects for pipe and cigar smokers is limited, but studies have been done on lung cancer. The chances of a pipe/cigar smoker getting lung cancer…is exactly the same chances as a non-smoker! Not inhaling makes a huge difference.
There is one other issue, though. While pipe/cigar smokers don’t damage the lungs, we do have an increased chance of developing oral cancers, since the smoke is in our mouths (six times more likely). There is also a two-fold chance of developing bladder cancer. Nothing can be done about bladder issues, but oral hygiene can mitigate the effects of tobacco on the mouth, and decrease your risks. After I smoke, I always immediately give my mouth a thorough cleaning.
The second issue is one of addiction. Being addicted to a substance is a no-no, since we should not let an addiction rule our lives. There is no doubt that cigarettes are addictive, and should be avoided. With pipe and cigars, since we don’t inhale, there is no intake of nicotine in the lungs. It is true that nicotine is absorbed, to a much lesser degree, through tissues in the mouth. However, the amount is very small. The chances for addiction are much, much less. In fact, when cigarettes are smoked, the smokers feel what is called a ‘nicotine rush.’ After 17 months of smoking, I have never felt this nicotine rush.
With cigarettes, you cannot go without one for more than an hour or two. With pipes and cigars, this is not usually an issue. This past winter, I went three and a half weeks without a pipe or cigar, and did not feel the need to have one. There is a famous story of the great preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, who was a cigar smoker. He challenged a friend to not smoke until Spurgeon smoked again, and said he could go longer without a cigar than his friend could go without a pipe, so they both stopped smoking, The story does not say how long this went on, but Spurgeon is noted as not having smoked a cigar for several months. (NOTE: Although most cigar and pipe smokers to not inhale, some do, becoming addicted to nicotine).
Many other famous Christians were also pipe and cigar smokers. For example, J.R.R. Tolkein was never without his pipe, as was his friend, C. S. Lewis.
Smoking is not mentioned in the Bible…but a similar addictive activity is. We all know that the Bible states we should not be drunkards, yet Paul told Timothy to have some wine occasionally for his health (1 Timothy 5:23). So in my opinion, the issue is not whether Christians drink or smoke, but how much. We can drink to the point that we are addicted to alcohol, and we can smoke to the point that we are addicted to nicotine, and these would be sins. But we can do both, in moderation, and it is not a sin.
However, we are not free to smoke anywhere, anytime. As Christians, we are not to take actions that cause others to stumble. If we are around someone that we know is fighting to overcome smoking, we should refrain from smoking.
As far as harming our bodies…everything we do harms our bodies. Getting in a car could kill you, yet we decide the risk is small compared to the rewards. EVERYTHING we do is based on accepting the risks with those activities, foods, etc. Those who smoke pipes and cigars accept the risks. I’m not encouraging anyone to take up smoking. That is a personal choice that you must make. While it is not sinful, it does come with risks…weigh them carefully.
As for my own smoking, I now have three pipes, my favorite being a churchwarden, and my favorite tobacco being two blends from a tobacco shop in Denver, Colorado, called ‘Hobbit’s Weed’ and ‘Bar Harbor.’ Favorite cigar…still undecided. There are thousands of cigar types out there, so I could smoke one a week for the rest of my life, and not finish them all. At this point, my two favorites are cigars by Hoyo de Monterrey and Padron.
One common activity in the Old Testament was for people to offer a burnt offering to the Lord. So when I light up a cigar, I think of myself as offering up a burnt offering to the Lord, as I sit and relax and think about my life.
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