▪ A sincere person may ask that question, since no law in the Bible mentions tobacco products. Does that fact mean that God’s thinking on the matter is difficult to discern? No, not at all.
The Bible says that “all Scripture is inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) The Scriptures contain clear principles and statements that reveal how God wants us to care for our health. First, let us review what researchers have discovered about the impact that tobacco use has on human health. Then we will consider how Bible principles relate to those findings.
Tobacco damages a user’s health and is a leading cause of preventable death. In the United States, tobacco use is to blame for 1 out of every 5 deaths. In that country, it kills more people each year than “alcohol, illegal drug use, homicide, suicide, car accidents, and AIDS combined,” states a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Those who smoke tobacco harm others. There is no safe amount of exposure to cigarette smoke. Nonsmokers who inhale secondhand smoke increase the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease by up to 30 percent. In recent years, doctors have identified another danger that they call “third-hand smoke.” This term refers to the chemical residues left on clothes, carpets, and other surfaces that linger long after the visible smoke dissipates. Those poisonous chemicals especially harm the health of children and can retard their ability to learn.
Tobacco is addictive. It makes the user a slave to the damaging habit. In fact, researchers believe that addiction to nicotine, a key chemical in tobacco, is one of the most difficult addictions to break.
How do Bible principles relate to those facts? Note the following:
God wants us to respect life. In the Law, which God gave to the nation of Israel, he indicated that those who want to please him must respect human life. (Deuteronomy 5:17) Israelites had to build a parapet, or low wall, around the edge of the roof of their houses. Why? The roofs were flat and were used as a living space. The wall prevented the family and others from falling and being injured or killed. (Deuteronomy 22:8) In addition, the Israelites had to ensure that the animals they owned did not cause injury to others. (Exodus 21:28, 29) A person who uses tobacco violates the principles that underpin those laws. He willingly damages his own health. In addition, his smoking endangers the health of those around him.
God expects us to love him and to love our neighbor. Jesus Christ stated that his followers should obey the two greatest commandments. They must love God with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and love their neighbor as themselves. (Mark 12:28-31) Since life is a gift from God, a person who uses tobacco shows a gross lack of respect for that gift and thus a lack of love for God. (Acts 17:26-28) That person’s habit can cause serious harm to others, so he belies any claim he makes to love his neighbor.
God requires that we avoid unclean habits. The Bible instructs Christians to cleanse themselves of “every defilement of flesh and spirit.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) Tobacco use obviously defiles a person. Those who want to quit smoking to please God face a difficult challenge. But with God’s help, they can break free from this defiling addiction.