Naoko, mentioned in the opening article, said of her victory over smoking, “I was able to change my life because of learning the truth about God’s qualities and purpose.” What she learned is found in the Bible. Even though the Bible never mentions tobacco, it helps us to understand how God views smoking.* For many, that knowledge provided the incentive they needed to resist or quit the habit. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Let us consider three well-known harmful effects of smoking and see what the Bible says about them.
SMOKING IS ADDICTIVE
Tobacco contains one of the most addictive drugs known—nicotine. It acts as a stimulant as well as a depressant. Smoking delivers nicotine to the brain quickly and repeatedly. Since each puff supplies a single dose of nicotine, the average one-pack-a-day smoker inhales the equivalent of about 200 doses a day, a higher dosage than in any other drug use. Such frequent dosing makes nicotine uniquely addictive. Once hooked, a smoker experiences withdrawal symptoms if his craving for nicotine is not satisfied.
“You are slaves of the one you obey.”—Romans 6:16
Can you really obey God if you are enslaved by tobacco addiction?
The Bible helps us to have the correct view of the matter when it says: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey?” (Romans 6:16) When an individual’s thinking and actions are dominated by a craving for tobacco, he soon becomes a slave to a degrading practice. However, God, whose name is Jehovah, wants us to be free, not only from practices that harm our body but also from those that corrupt our spirit, that is, our dominant mental inclination. (Psalm 83:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1) Thus, as a person grows in appreciation and respect for Jehovah, he recognizes that Jehovah deserves his best and that he cannot give God his best while remaining enslaved to a lethal habit. That realization helps to give a person the will to resist hurtful desires.
Olaf, who lives in Germany, overcame a 16-year addiction to cigarettes that began when he was 12. “The first cigarette seemed like a harmless snowball,” he said. “But over the years it amounted to a huge avalanche. One time when I ran out of cigarettes, I was so frustrated that I collected all the stubs from an ashtray, scraped the tobacco together, and rolled a cigarette with a scrap of newspaper. In hindsight, I can see that it was really shameful.” How did he break the degrading habit of smoking? “The crucial factor was the desire to please Jehovah,” he said. “Jehovah’s love for mankind and the hope he provides gave me the strength to break this addiction once and for all.”
SMOKING DAMAGES THE BODY
“Smoking cigarettes . . . has been scientifically proven to harm nearly every organ in the body and to increase morbidity and mortality,” says The Tobacco Atlas. It is well-known that smoking causes noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and lung ailments. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is also a major cause of death from communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis.
“You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”—Matthew 22:37
Are you showing love and respect for God if you abuse your God-given body by indulging in a defiling habit?
Through his Word, the Bible, Jehovah God teaches us to have a proper view of our life, our body, and our faculties. His Son, Jesus, pointed to this when he said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Clearly, God wants us to make good use of our life and body and to treat them with respect. As we learn about Jehovah and his promises, we come to love and value all that he has done for us. This motivates us to keep free from anything that defiles our body.
Jayavanth, a physician in India, smoked for 38 years. He said: “I learned about the dangers of smoking through medical journals. I knew it was wrong, and I advised my patients to give up the habit. But I could not quit it myself, despite trying five or six times.” What helped him finally to stop? He relates: “I quit smoking as a result of having a Bible study. The desire to please Jehovah motivated me to quit the habit straight away.”
SMOKING HARMS OTHERS
Exhaled smoke and smoke that comes from smoldering tobacco are toxic. Inhaling such secondhand smoke can cause cancer and other diseases, and each year it kills 600,000 nonsmokers, mostly women and children. A report by WHO warns: “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
“You must love your neighbor as yourself.”—Matthew 22:39
Do you really love your neighbor and family if you expose them to the dangers of secondhand smoke?
According to Jesus, love of neighbor—our family, friends, and others around us—is second only to love of God. “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” he said. (Matthew 22:39) If we pursue a habit that hurts those close to us, we are not showing neighborly love. Genuine love moves us to follow the Bible’s admonition: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24.
Armen, who lives in Armenia, recalls: “Because they were affected by it, my family begged me to quit smoking. But I didn’t want to admit that it could have a bad effect on them.” He explains what changed his view: “My knowledge of the Bible and love for Jehovah helped me to quit smoking and admit that it was harmful not only to me but also to those around me.”
SMOKING EXTINGUISHED FOR GOOD!
Bible knowledge helped Olaf, Jayavanth, and Armen to break free from a degrading habit that was hurting them and others. They succeeded not simply because they knew that smoking is harmful but because they came to love Jehovah and desired to please him. The vital role of love is emphasized at 1 John 5:3, which states: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” Of course, following Bible principles will not always be easy, but when a person is moved by strong love for God, obedience will not be a burden.
Through a global educational campaign, Jehovah God is now helping millions of people to break free or keep free from enslavement to tobacco. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) Very soon, by means of his Kingdom—a heavenly government under his Son, Jesus Christ—Jehovah will eliminate the greedy commercial system that is responsible for enslaving millions to tobacco. He will extinguish the smoking epidemic for good and raise obedient humankind to perfection in body and mind.—Isaiah 33:24; Revelation 19:11, 15.
If you are struggling to quit smoking, take heart. By learning to love Jehovah and to appreciate his view of smoking, you too can find the motivation you need to succeed. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to provide you with practical, one-on-one assistance to learn and apply Bible principles. Be assured that if you want Jehovah’s help to break free from tobacco addiction, he will supply the power and strength you need.—Philippians 4:13.
Smoking here refers to inhaling tobacco smoke directly from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or water pipes. However, the principles discussed apply equally to the use of chewing tobacco, snuff, electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine, and other products.