Global, Religion

Rabbis Ban Smoking and Tobacco Products

The Rabbinical Council of America announces its official prohibition of smoking. See: RCA Press Release | Halachic Prohibition (11 pg PDF)

The Va’ad Halachah (or Halacha Committee) of The Rabbinical Council of America has issued a unanimous opinion affirming that, in spite of its widespread practice even within many rabbinic and yeshiva circles, the smoking of tobacco products is prohibited by Jewish law. For some observers of Jewish life, this decision might be casually dismissed as a statement of the obvious, or in any case, as long overdue. But from a different perspective, this ruling illustrates the highly significant fact that accepted practice and illustrious precedent notwithstanding, Jewish law is fully able to incorporate new realities, recognize new and reliable scientific findings, and embrace the need to change heretofore acceptable behavior.

[Emphasis mine] I suspect that line in the statement might come back to haunt them someday.

18 thoughts on “Rabbis Ban Smoking and Tobacco Products

  1. On the contrary.
    Your emphasis is what I’ve been saying from jump: that our culture and religion have all the faculties to adapt and survive modern times.
    That we’re at (another) crossroads in our history has people crying (no offense) that the sky is falling, but I think we’re in the middle of another step in our long evolution as a distributed civilization.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. didn’t a chief rabbi in israel ban smoking years ago? I can’t remember which one nor whether it was one of the Sephardi or Ashkenazi rabbi. After that decision many of the other Israelis rabbis ceased to submit to him as a legitimate halachic authority. hopefully things will work better this time around.

  3. The banning of smoking is just another fad by these followers of fads.
    Smoking (at least in the USA) is decreasing all the time due to advertising and peer pressure. The real killer in the USA is obesity (I plead guilty {{grin}})
    If the RCA wants to lead then they should ban cholent, fried foods, pizza, etc., since all of them are bad for cardiac health. But, they won’t , because too many of them are obese and still have a shtickle of cake.
    Why doesn’t the RCA demand that yeshivas (ketana and gedolah) have a physical education program to produce healthy bodies to go with healthy minds?
    Why doesn’t the RCA work to produce technical and vocational schools so that we don’t have a future generation of shnorers?

  4. “ban smoking”? Ha. does this mean that smokers will not get aliyot, or that a smoker cannot be a shochet, or a hazzan or a rabbi, or perhaps that second hand smoke will be a cause for suing damages at a beit din? no. This is a meaningless statement.
    Obviously, the RCA frowns on smoking. But this is still not halakha or the modification thereof.

  5. They don’t distinguish between taking up a cigarette habit and occasionally indulging in some nargila puffing. They’re not equally dangerous.

  6. Rav Ovadia banned smoking years ago, and now this.
    So that leaves one posek left who hasn’t banned smoking yet.
    *clutching a pack of Marlboros and a volume of Shevet ha’Levi*

  7. sam, you are right, cigarettes and hookahs are not the same. hookahs are worse. check out the studies like thomas eissenberg’s study out of Virginia Commonwealth Univ. Wikipedia has a pretty good overview here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hookah
    The WHO report is here: http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/Waterpipe%20recommendation_Final.pdf
    I occasionally smoke nargila, in fact we have a pair in our house, but we shouldn’t believe naively that the water removes all the tar, heavy metals, and other toxicants.

  8. “They don’t distinguish between taking up a cigarette habit and occasionally indulging in some nargila puffing. They’re not equally dangerous.”
    Sam you are right, smoking nargila [hookah] and smoking cigarettes are not equally dangerous. Per usage hookahs are shown to be much more dangerous.
    Wikipedia has a decent overview of the health issues: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hookah
    The World Health Organization has a piece on the differences as well:
    http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/Waterpipe%20recommendation_Final.pdf
    It is from the WHO piece [page 3] that the idea that a single hookah session is equivalent to 100 cigarettes comes. Though the methodology is complicated as are the health impacts it is clear that hookah smoking is much riskier in terms of heavy metals, tar, and other toxicants of various sorts than cigarettes.
    that said, i occasionally smoke hookah–we have two in our house–i just don’t think its any healthier than smoking cigarettes. if one wishes to be healthy for a long time both should obviously be avoided or enjoyed only occasionally.
    i can’t speak to the cool factor though. i’ll leave that to someone hip and stuff.

  9. it’s interesting that “fully able to incorporate new realities” generally implies finding something new to forbid..
    But regardless, I just got an email about CUNY’s “Tobacco Free” campaign. So if there’re any fearful amongst you who are now quitting and also happen to be CUNY students you can get a pack of complimentary patches. And stam, if you call 311 in New York, they’ve got a program that sends u patches as well.
    i quit 10 months ago (after 9 yrs of smoking). i was in Israel for 10 days, and smoked so much (because everybody is smoking everywhere) that when i got back to the US I was totally sick, and somehow i just quit. so in case u dont wanna do a patch. go to israel, smoke like crazy, come back, and the rest will work out.
    -Dr. Jake

  10. Thanks for the info on hookah. And I didn’t know that it was originally used for smoking hashish, but then again that makes sense, I guess, since hookah predates tobacco in the ME.
    Great point, Izzy. Poor nutrition and obesity are huge causes for concern, with rising rates of diabetes and all. I think this would be info for yeshiva bachurs who sit and learn all day without exercising, which btw is a halachic responsibility for a Jew. I’m pretty sure it is, at least.

  11. ZT – I didn’t meant to imply that I thought hookah smoking was safe. Still, though, in general (at least anecdotally) people I know who smoke hookah smoke it only now and then, while people who smoke cigarettes smoke them all day, constantly taking cigarette breaks whether at work, school, or home. It just seems like one habit is clearly more addictive, and thus dangerous, than the other.

  12. there is significant nicotine content in hookah tobacco. it is also physically addictive. there are three main differences:
    1) hookahs require a lot more time to setup and cleanup, a disincentive to use, especially midday use
    2) hookahs are obviously a lot less portable cutting down midday use.
    3) cultural factors help avoid hookah addiction
    if it is useful for you to draw a distinction between hookahs and cigaretts i am in no position to judge the role of that distinction in you life. my point was mainly to speak to often cited notion that hookahs are not potentially harmful. they are not meaningfully different from cigarettes healthfully though they may be practically for the three reasons i mentioned above.

  13. Like Izzy said above, they might as well ban schmaltz if they’re going to ban smoking. Do you need schmaltz to live? No, but it can make it more enjoyable. Will a little schmaltz now and then kill you? No. Will regular use of schmaltz kill you? YES.
    Same issue with cigarettes. SAME THING.
    So I disagree with this ruling, however, I will say that smoking is generally not a good idea just like eating schmaltz is generally not a good idea. So throw away you’re cigarettes and fire up your vegan cholent. Or don’t, and take a small health risk.

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