Scriptures

Is Smoking Sinful?

Introduction

Smoking is one of those things that the Bible doesn’t directly address, so we have to figure out what God would have us do based on principles we draw from other teachings. As an ex-smoker, I’ve heard over and over again 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Corinthians 6 being quoted as ‘the text’ by well-intended, honest Christians who just want to help smokers, by showing them that smoking in sinful!

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.’

1 Corinthians 6:19 ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’

When we come to any text in the Bible we must always remember to keep it in its context. The two passages above which speak about our bodies being temples aren’t terribly applicable to smoking.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 has nothing to do with our bodies, in this passage it’s the church, the community of the people of God, that is called the temple of God.

The sins against the temple in the context of this passage have to do with the divisions in the Corinthian church caused by some Christians who thought themselves superior to other Christians. 1 Corinthians 1-4.

While 1 Corinthians 6:19 does relate to believers and their individual bodies, the sins Paul wrote about here had nothing to do with harming or mistreating the body, but rather with involving the body in sexual sin.

The ‘temple’ aspect enters in this case because they are united to Christ in body and soul, 1 Corinthians 6:15 and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19. And so, when believers sin, they include their Lord and Spirit in sinful relationships. To defile the temple in this case has to do with engaging the body in sexual sins that defile the people to whom God is united.

We can infer from this passage that our bodies are essential parts of who we are, and that it’s important to avoid sins of the body, but this passage doesn’t teach that exposing the body to physical harm is a sin.

Before we move on, and decide whether smoking is sinful or not, let’s consider some of the facts surrounding smoking.

Here is a list of diseases which are caused or made worse by smoking

1. Lung cancer. About 30,000 people in the UK die from lung cancer each year. More than 8 in 10 cases are directly related to smoking.

2. COPD. About 25,000 people in the UK die each year from this serious lung disease. More than 8 in 10 of these deaths are directly linked to smoking. People who die of COPD are usually quite unwell for several years before they die.

3. Heart disease. This is the biggest killer illness in the UK. About 120,000 people in the UK die each year from heart disease. About 1 in 6 of these is due to smoking.

3. Other cancers – of the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, gullet (oesophagus), pancreas, bladder, neck of the womb (cervix), blood (leukaemia) and kidney are all more common in smokers.

4. Circulation. The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of the blood vessels and affect the level of fats (lipids) in the bloodstream. This increases the risk of atheroma forming (sometimes called hardening of the arteries).

5. Atheroma is the main cause of heart disease, strokes, poor circulation in the legs (peripheral vascular disease) and swollen arteries which can burst causing internal bleeding (aneurysms). All these atheroma-related diseases are more common in smokers.

6. Sexual problems. Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have erection problems (impotence) or have difficulty in maintaining an erection in middle life. This is thought to be due to smoking-related damage of the blood vessels to the penis.

7. Rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking is known to be a risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis. One research study estimated that smoking is responsible for about 1 in 5 cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

8. Ageing. Smokers tend to develop more lines on their face at an earlier age than non-smokers. This often makes smokers look older than they really are.

9. Fertility is reduced in smokers (both male and female).

10. Menopause. On average, women who smoke have a menopause nearly two years earlier than non-smokers.

Now cigarette smoke itself contains ‘tar’ which contains many chemicals. These deposit in the lungs and can get into the blood vessels and be carried to other parts of the body. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including over 50 known causes of cancer, carcinogens and other poisons.

Carbon monoxide is a chemical which affects the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. In particular, in pregnant women who smoke, this causes a reduced amount of oxygen to get to the growing baby. This is thought to be the most important cause for the bad effects of smoking on the growing baby.

An added complication with the issue of tobacco is ‘nicotine’, a known addictive substance. Nicotine is a substance that stimulates the brain. Regular smokers, when the blood level of nicotine falls, usually develop withdrawal symptoms, such as craving, anxiety, restlessness, headaches, irritability, hunger, difficulty with concentration and just feeling awful and these symptoms are relieved by the next cigarette.

So, most smokers need to smoke regularly to feel normal and to prevent nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Nicotine seems to create some physical dependency, stronger in some than in others, and many would argue that this brings it under the umbrella of 1 Corinthians 6:12

‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.’

Now, 1 Corinthians 6:12 can be a difficult passage to understand. Was Paul quoting a Corinthian slogan and perhaps refuting their application of it? Was he offering the slogan to counter the Corinthians’ views?

The verse itself is proverbial wisdom, more or less applicable to any given situation, and sometimes totally inapplicable. But is it any more sinful to crave a cigarette than to crave a cup of coffee in the morning before you are ready to face the world?

Some who do smoke often go to Mark 7:1-23 to justify smoking, saying it’s not what goes in but what comes out of the body which is important.

‘The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So, the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’ And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’ Again, Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’ Mark 7:1-23

This passage doesn’t really address the issue of smoking either. In this passage, Jesus refuted Jewish tradition, regarding ritual impurity. Those who were ritually impure, ceremonial unclean, couldn’t approach God before they first purified themselves.

This particular tradition seems to have held that failure to wash appropriately before eating made one ritually unclean.

Jesus responded with two main points

1. The Jews were hypocrites for worrying about traditional ritual impurity while neglecting the heavier moral teachings of the Law.

2. It’s moral sin that prevents man from approaching God, not traditional ritual impurity.

In the context, Jesus’ statement regarding ‘nothing’, Mark 7:15, was limited to food, Mark 7:19. He didn’t teach that it’s never sinful for anything to ‘enter’ you, consider, for example, the entrance of a demon into your body at your invitation.

I would suggest, however, that tobacco is much closer to food than it is to a demon! In any event, the Bible doesn’t teach that tobacco ever made anyone ceremonially unclean. Further, tobacco is a health issue, and this passage isn’t about health. It’s about ritual purity and impurity, and the ability of man to approach God.

All this being said, I would suggest that there are legitimate arguments against smoking in many cases. These arguments fall into two categories, morality and wisdom.

Wisdom

I believe smoking isn’t so much a sin issue but a wisdom issue, you must weigh its benefits against its liabilities. On the one hand, cigarettes are evidently pleasurable to many smokers. They also seem to increase metabolism in some people, and so, in some cases to fight weight gain. It would seem, though, that the liabilities attached to cigarette smoking are much greater.

It’s certainly a health hazard to almost all smokers, and it’s generally offensive to those who don’t smoke, e.g., it smells bad, and it makes breathing difficult. While it isn’t always sinful to do, what isn’t wise, it is by definition foolish. However, each individual case is different, and it may be that in some people’s cases smoking isn’t foolish. The benefits may outweigh the risks.

Moral

On a moral level, we must consider our responsibilities to others. For example, if smoking puts our health and or life at risk, and our ability to care for ourselves and our family depends upon our continued health, then smoking may be an unwarranted risk that puts our family in financial jeopardy. Our untimely demise or incapacitation may also prevent us from fulfilling other moral obligations, raising our children, etc.

Depending on people’s smoking habits, their smoking may also jeopardise the health and or lives of others. For example, if people smoke in the house, those who live with them will end up breathing the second-hand smoke.

If the studies are accurate that indicate second-hand smoke poses a health threat, then smokers are risking and perhaps damaging the health of others unnecessarily, unless for some reason it’s morally necessary for people to smoke in the house, which by all accounts is sinful, though one must also weigh into the equation the possibility that these others are agreeable to breathing second-hand smoke.

Risks and Rewards

Finally, in all of this we must consider the level of risks versus rewards. For example, the risks involved with one cigarette a day are far lower than the risks associated with two packs a day. In fact, smoking infrequently may not be any more unhealthy than living in a smoggy city. We must also be careful not to pick on smoking as a stand-out issue.

There are other things that we do that equally risk damaging ourselves, eating a poor diet, failure to exercise, etc., and or that put others at risk or discomfort, driving poorly, working slowly, failing to proclaim the Gospel, etc.

In this regard, we would all do well to remember Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:3-5

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’

I would suggest that the potential ramifications of smoking are great enough that one should rightly assess the risks before smoking. But I would also suggest that insofar as smoking doesn’t adversely affect others, it’s a matter best left to informed, private judgment.

Conclusion

The truth is many Christians who smoke keep it hidden because they feel bad about it, sometimes even guilty, a lot of Christian smokers want help and encouragement to stop smoking but they are simply afraid to ask their brethren for that help and support, not because it’s sinful but because they fear they might damage their reputation within the church or they fear they will be judged and so for years they go along trying to make it alone.

People who have never smoked haven’t really got a clue what it takes to quit smoking, it’s kind of like trying to support an alcoholic if you’ve never had a drink of alcohol in your life. But what we can say is that smokers and exsmokers need love and support like anyone else does who have any sort of addiction.

They don’t need condemnation, they don’t need lectures about what they’re doing, they need patience and encouragement from those around them, especially if they are Christians seeking to stop smoking.

I think this verse would apply to both the smoker and the none smoker.

1 Corinthians 8:9 ‘Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.’

If you are a smoker who has an addiction to nicotine, and want to stop, or thinking about stopping here is some helpful advice to help you on along the road to recovery.

Prepare to Quit

Quitting is hard but quitting can be a bit easier if you have a plan. When you think you’re ready to quit,

here are a few simple steps you can take to put your plan into action

1. Pray about it and ask God to help you.

2. Know Why You’re Quitting

3. Before you actually quit, it’s important to know why you’re doing it. Do you want to be healthier? Save money? Keep your family safe? If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions:

a. What do I dislike about smoking?

b. What do I miss out on when I smoke?

c. How is smoking affecting my health?

d. What will happen to me and my family if I keep smoking?

e. How will my life get better when I quit?

Learn How to Handle Your Triggers and Cravings

Triggers are specific persons, places, or activities that make you feel like smoking. Knowing your smoking triggers can help you learn to deal with them. Cravings are short but intense urges to smoke. They usually only last a few minutes. Plan ahead and come up with a list of short activities you can do when you get a craving.

Find Ways to Handle Nicotine Withdrawal

During the first few weeks after you quit, you may feel uncomfortable and crave a cigarette. This is because of withdrawal. During withdrawal, your body is getting used to not having nicotine from cigarettes. For most people, the worst symptoms of withdrawal last a few days to a few weeks.

During this time, you may:

a. Feel a little depressed

b. Be unable to sleep

c. Become cranky, frustrated, or mad

d. Feel anxious, nervous, or restless

e. Have trouble thinking clearly

f. You may be tempted to smoke to relieve these feelings.

Just remember that they are temporary, no matter how powerful they feel at the time. The worst withdrawal symptoms only last a few days to a couple of weeks.

Stay strong!

One of the best ways to deal with nicotine withdrawal is to try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT can reduce withdrawal symptoms. And NRT can double your chances of quitting smoking for good. NRT comes in several different forms, including gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler, and lozenge. Many are available without a prescription.

A lot of research has been done on NRT. It has been shown to be safe and effective for almost all smokers who want to quit, including teens. But if you have a severe medical condition or are pregnant, talk to your doctor about using NRT.

If you plan to use NRT, remember to have it available on your quit day. Read the instructions on the NRT package and follow them carefully. NRT will give you the most benefit if you use it as recommended.

Explore Your Quit Smoking Options

It’s difficult to quit smoking on your own, but quitting ‘cold turkey’ isn’t your only choice. In fact, choosing another option may improve your chances of success. Check out:

1. SmokefreeTXT text message program

2. QuitGuide app

3. Quitlines like 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).

Find a quit method that might be right for you

Tell Your Family and Friends You Plan to Quit

Quitting smoking is easier when the people in your life support you. Let them know you are planning to quit and explain how they can help.

Here are a few tips

1. Tell your family church family and friends your reasons for quitting.

2. Ask them to check in with you to see how things are going.

3. Ask them to help you think of smoke free activities you can do together (like going to the movies or a nice restaurant).

4. Ask a friend or family member who smokes to quit with you, or at least not smoke around you.

5. Ask your friends and family not to give you a cigarette—no matter what you say or do.

6. Alert your friends and family that you may be in a bad mood while quitting. Ask them to be patient and help you through it.

Support is one of the keys to successfully quitting. Find more ways to get support to help you quit, ask the church to help and support you or ask a trusted individual in the church to help you with prayers and support.

Make a Quit Plan

Having a plan can make quitting easier. Create your personalised plan to help you stay focused, confident, and motivated to quit.

Know Your Smoking Triggers

Triggers are the things that make you want to smoke. Different people have different triggers, like a stressful situation, sipping coffee, going to a party, or smelling cigarette smoke. Most triggers fall into one of these four categories: 1. Emotional 2. Pattern 3. Social 4. Withdrawal

Knowing your triggers and understanding the best way to deal with them is your first line of defence.

Emotional Triggers

Many people smoke when they have intense emotions. An emotional trigger reminds you how you felt when you used smoking to enhance a good mood or escape a bad one, like when you were:

1. Stressed

2. Anxious

3. Excited

4. Bored

5. Down

6. Happy

7. Lonely

8. Satisfied

9. Cooled off after a fight

How to deal with emotional triggers

You can learn how to cope with your feelings without leaning on cigarettes.

Try these ways to deal with emotional triggers

a. Talk about your emotions. Telling a friend or family member how you feel can help.

b. Take some slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing will slow down your body, quiet your mind, and reduce cravings. This is also a great way to manage stress and anxiety.

c. Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to handle emotions. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that make you feel good.

d. Listen to calming music. Music can relax you by slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing stress hormones.

Find out more ways to cope with stress and emotions without smoking. Stop. Breathe. Think. It’s a great way to take a time out and de-stress. Pattern Triggers A pattern trigger is an activity that you connect with smoking.

Some examples of these activities include

1. Talking on the phone

2. Drinking alcohol

3. Watching TV

4. Driving

5. Finishing a meal

6. Drinking coffee

7. Taking a work break

8. After having sex

9. Before going to bed

How to deal with pattern triggers

One way to beat pattern triggers is to break the association with the trigger and transfer the feeling to another activity.

a. Find a replacement. Chew gum. Eat sugar-free candy. Suck on a straw.

b. Try activities that keep your hands busy. Squeeze a handball. Do beading or needlework.

c. Get moving. Go for a walk. Ride a bike. Go swimming. Exercising can distract you from smoking.

d. Change your routine. For example, try drinking your coffee at a different time or brushing your teeth right after you eat a meal.

e. Do you smoke after your morning cup of coffee? Try switching up your routine when you quit.

Social Triggers

Social triggers are occasions that usually include other people who smoke.

Here are some examples

1. Going to a bar

2. Going to a party or other social event

3. Going to a concert

4. Seeing someone else smoke

5. Being with friends who smoke

6. Celebrating a big event

How to deal with social triggers

Once you’ve made the decision to quit, it is best to avoid places where people smoke, and ask your friends not to smoke around you. Over time, it will get easier. Tell your friends and family that you have quit. Ask them for their support.

Withdrawal Triggers

If you’ve been a long-time smoker, your body is used to getting a regular dose of nicotine. When you quit, withdrawal symptoms will produce cravings for nicotine.

Withdrawal triggers include

1. Craving the taste of a cigarette

2. Smelling cigarette smoke

3. Handling cigarettes, lighters, and matches

4. Needing to do something with your hands or mouth

5. Feeling restless or having other withdrawal symptoms

How to deal with withdrawal triggers

Distract yourself. Find something to take your mind off the craving. Try nicotine replacement medication. Learn more about medications and other quit methods. Now that you better understand triggers, identify the ones that you want to control, and make a plan to manage your cravings.

How to Manage Cravings

You won’t be able to avoid all of your triggers. And learning how to deal with triggers takes practice. So, when a craving is triggered, it’s important to have a plan to beat that urge to smoke. Cravings typically last 5 to 10 minutes. It might be uncomfortable, but try to wait it out.

Make a list of things you can do to get through the craving.

Here are a few to try

1. Get Support

2. Call or text someone. You don’t have to do this alone. Learn how to lean on people you trust.

3. Use the National Cancer Institute’s quitline. Call 1-877-44U-QUIT to talk with an expert for free.

4. Try SmokefreeTXT. Sign up to get 24/7 support sent right to your phone.

5. Chat with a counselor. Get real-time help from the National Cancer Institute.

6. Use an app. The QuitGuide app allows you to track cravings and slips by time of day and location, and has many other features to help you become smoke free.

7. Cravings last the length of a few songs! Make a playlist to distract yourself.

Think About Your Reasons for Quitting Review your reasons

Remind yourself why you want to quit. This can be a powerful motivator to keep you smoke free.

1. Calculate your savings. Cigarettes are expensive! Add up the money you’ll save, and decide what to do with it. This is a great way to stay motivated and kill time while you let a craving pass.

2. Stay Busy

3. Keep your mouth busy. Chew a stick of gum instead of picking up a cigarette. Keep hard candy with you. Drink more water.

4. Do something else. When a craving hits, stop what you’re doing immediately and switch to doing something different. Simply changing your routine might help you shake off a craving.

5. Go for a walk or jog. Or go up and down the stairs a few times. Physical activity, even in short bursts, can help boost your energy and beat a craving.

6. Take slow, deep breaths. Breathe through your craving. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this 10 times or until you’re feeling more relaxed.

7. Go to a Smoke free Zone

8. Visit a public place. Most public places don’t allow smoking. Go to a movie, a store, or another smoke free place where you can’t smoke.

9. Practice what you already do. What have you done before when you found yourself in a smoke free place? Tap into that same approach when your next craving comes along. Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy Even if you use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), you might have a craving that’s difficult to deal with. Think about trying a short-acting NRT, such as a lozenge or gum, plus long-acting NRT, such as the patch, to get past the craving.

a. Don’t Give Up

b. Do whatever it takes to beat the urge to smoke. Keep trying different things until you find what works for you. Just don’t smoke. Not even one puff!

Tips for Slips

Many smokers slip and smoke a cigarette while they’re quitting smoking. You’re not alone. Don’t use a slip as an excuse to start smoking again.

If you slip, you might try these ways to get back on track

1. Slips are common so don’t be too hard on yourself. A slip doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t mean you can’t quit for good.

2. It’s important to restart quitting right away, today or tomorrow at the latest. Don’t give up on your goal of no cigarettes at all.

3. Ditching your quit because of a slip is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat.

4. Feel proud of the time you went without smoking. Think about ways you avoided your triggers and beat cravings. Try to use those ways to cope again.

5. Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). You don’t need to stop using NRT after you slip and smoke one or two cigarettes. Using NRT increases your chances of staying smoke free for good.

6. Get support. If you slip, talk to family or friends. Ask them for help to stay smoke free. You don’t have to do it alone.

7. Think about what you learned when you were not smoking. What helped you to stay smoke free and what caused you to have a slip? What can you do differently now to help yourself be smoke free again?

May God bless anyone who has or is going to and who wants to quit smoking.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Matthew 5:16

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