Is it Wrong to Smoke?


Is it Wrong to Smoke?

Richard Hollerman

One of the most dramatic changes in the United States over the past years has been the change in smoking habits.  For instance, in 1964, some 44 percent of adults smoked, but today this has decreased to 23.5% of men (26.2 million) and 18.1% of women (20.9 million) in the United States.  We laud this change—one of the few changes for better in society!

However, in the world, smoking is increasing.  About 1/3 of the global male population smokes!  Every 8 seconds, someone dies from the use of tobacco!  Twelve times as many British have died from smoking as compared to all of the British deaths during the Second World War!

However, even in the United States, there continues to be hardened smokers who refuse to look at the facts and say No to the tobacco addiction.  They may wish they had the will power to resist, or they may think that the effort will be too great, or they have tried and failed too many times, or they love the taste of tobacco and the uplift of nicotine.  Many of these will try to justify this foolish and filthy habit.  They offer various popular arguments for the use of tobacco in its various forms.

Some people, in their desire to justify their unholy addition, say, “Jesus never condemned smoking!  The Bible never says that smoking is wrong!  Not once does the Bible even mention smoking or tobacco!”

Other smokers argue in this way: “Junk food and fattening food are just as harmful to the physical body, and Christian people never condemn these things.  If junk food is fine for Christians, why should they condemn us—for both practices are equally dangerous!”

Still others may vainly offer the lame excuse, “The government is trying to restrict our freedom to smoke!  They have altered the medical findings and there really aren’t any dangers in the use of tobacco.  No one really dies from cancer, heart disease, or other conditions through smoking!  It is all a government conspiracy to destroy the tobacco industry!”

More arguments have been raised by smokers to justify their tobacco addition, but these are among the most popular.  We must openly admit that the Bible never mentions smoking or tobacco.  Not once will we read of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or smokeless tobacco.  But neither does God’s Word mention or explicitly condemn other sins that are usually frowned upon by religious people and even many irreligious people—such as abortion, pornography, gambling, airplane hijacking, bombing, pedophilia, and cannibalism.

We must understand the basic fact that God gave His Word to be applicable to every age and culture.  It was given in a specific historical context but has been relevant to people in the first century, the twentieth century, and the present twenty-first century.  God chose to make His  Word applicable to people in Japan, Australia, Iran, and Kenya.  It is relevant to people in Argentina, Germany, Spain, and the United States.  It is relevant to people before tobacco was discovered by early explorers in the fifteenth century and to people today who know much about this addictive substance.

Wouldn’t it be unfair for God to give His written Word—the Bible—so that only a certain group of nomads in Judea could understand it, or a certain sect of Jews in Jerusalem could comprehend it, or a community of Christians in Asia Minor could apply it?  Instead, God has graciously solved this by presenting basic spiritual and moral principles that are applicable to all people everywhere.  Even when a sin is not specifically mentioned by name in the Bible, we can discern God’s will by noticing His principles of truth and applying them to contemporary life situations.

We come back to the question we asked at the beginning: Is it wrong to smoke?  In light of the Word of God, how can we answer this?  Consider these points:

1 1. Would Jesus smoke cigarettes?

This is unimaginable!  Such a suggestion would be blasphemous!  Scripture says that we are to be “imitators” of the Lord and are to “follow in His steps” (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 2:21).  The Christian is to “walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).  Therefore, if Jesus would refuse to smoke, anyone who wants to follow Him will likewise refuse to smoke!

2 2. Would using tobacco harm the physical body?

We all know the answer to this question.  Everyone during the past fifty years has known that smoking has been proven in hundreds of tests and trials to be related to many forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, emphysema, and other life-threatening conditions.  One authority states: “Half of all long-term smokers will die from tobacco.  Every cigarette smoked cuts at least five minutes of life on average—about the time taken to smoke it.”  A further comment about the health risk: “Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death.  It is a prime factor in heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease.  It can cause cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder, and contributes to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys.”  Why is smoking so deadly?  For one reason, the noxious chemicals it contains: “More than 4,000 toxic or carcinogenic chemicals have been found in tobacco smoke.”


The Bible says that our bodies are to be presented as “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).  The Christian’s body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit” and we are commanded, “Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Surely anyone who would harm his body would sin against God who gave us our body to be used for His glory and service.

3.      3. Does smoking waste God’s money on a fleshly habit?

Our body doesn’t belong to ourselves—but to God our Creator.  “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains” (1 Corinthians 10:26).  We will give account for our use or abuse of the financial resources God has given to us (Luke 16:10).  The cost of cigarettes regularly increases.  Today, one may spend $5 a day on cigarettes, or $1,825 a year.  If one wastes $10 a day on cigarettes, this would be $3,650 a year.  In a lifetime, this could be $120,000 or $150,000.  One who foolishly misuses God’s money in this way must give account before a holy God on the day of judgment.  Anyone who uses $100,000 to destroy his body when that same money could be used in the work of the Lord gravely sins against Him!

4 4. Is smoking really a form of murder?

Smoking is a form of slow suicide.  “The average smoker looses an estimated twelve years of life due to complications from smoking.”  Scripture says, “No murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).  If smoking is a form of self-murder, and no murderer experiences eternal life, we can see how serious this addition really is!

5 5. Would smoking provide a good, worthy, and righteous example before others?

Think about this.  Would a responsible father want his son to smoke?  Would a worthy mother like to see her daughter smoking?  The answers are obvious.  “In speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).  Paul likewise writes, “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds” (Titus 2:7).  We are to be good and worthy examples to our children, our spouse, our friends, and to all.  A smoker may say, “Do as I say but not as I do,” but he provides a poor and foolish example by his smoking to everyone who sees him smoke or knows of his evil addition.

6 6. Is smoking generally known as a wholesome, pure, and holy habit?

Clearly, the use of all forms of tobacco places the user among the carnal, the irreligious, the profane, the unholy, and the lower elements of society.  We do not imply that smokers are necessarily unpatriotic, or illegal, or lazy.  But they do place themselves in the realm of being unspiritual, immoral, and unscriptural.  No authentic Christian, no holy man or woman, no righteous and pure person will dirty his hands, defile his heart, and pollute his mind to smoke.  Paul writes, “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  This command says to renounce the lusts of smoking to pursue righteousness (rather than unrighteous smoking), and to do so with other people who have pure hearts.  This eliminates smoking. 

We also read that we are to pursue holiness, “without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  No one will assert that smoking is a “holy” habit.  Since it is an unholy practice and since only those who are holy will go to be with God, we can see how serious the use of tobacco is.

7 7. Is smoking an addiction that enslaves the smoker?

Many smokers freely admit that they would like to escape the smoking habit, but they are in bondage to this sin and think that they can’t break free.  Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34).  Peter adds, “By what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).  Smoking and other sins do enslave the heart and will!  Paul wrote, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12). 

Should we view smoking as a form of moral and spiritual bondage?  We read that “nearly 70 percent (32 million) of current adult smokers said they wanted to quit smoking completely.”  Why don’t they just quit?  They feel trapped and don’t exercise their will-power to break free.  However, many unbelievers have been able to break the chains of this addition.  One source states, “Approximately 44.3 million adults are former smokers—25 million men and 19.3 million women.” 

It is true that some three-pack-a-day smokers have been able to turn from this addition “cold turkey” and have been living free from tobacco for years.  Many of these are rank unbelievers who don’t even have the Holy Spirit.  How much more effective will it be if one turns to God for salvation, receives the Spirit of God, and has the power and strength of the Lord given in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16).  Paul assures us, “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).  Jesus promises victory: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

8 8. Can the smoker truly love God and others?

Throughout the Scriptures, God says that love is our priority.  Jesus said that “the great and foremost commandment” is love: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your hart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  The second command is also love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39).  It is impossible to love God while we disobey His commands that would forbid smoking (John 14:15, 21-24; 1 John 5:2-3).  We cannot truly love others if we sue tobacco and thereby offend others, fail to be a good example to them, misuse money that would be used to share the gospel with them, and blow smoke around them, thereby harming their bodies.  The Bible says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10), and the smoker definitely “does wrong” to his family, his friends, and his working associates.  A smoker, therefore, fails to love God and others when his indulges his filthy habit.

A dozen other reasons could be mentioned which show that smoking displeases God, violates His will, and hurts His holy heart.  Anyone who values a saving relationship with God will definitely repent of this fleshly habit.

But how do we reply to the smoker’s justification of his tobacco-use by pointing to the professing Christian who also abuses his body with junk food and other practices which harm his body?  Inconsistency is the answer.  We agree that there is a degree of hypocrisy when the professing Christian points his finger at the smoker and accuses him of sinning against his body—then the same person continues his own destructive lifestyle that will harm his body, bring physical disability, and result in premature death.  Gluttony at the table, indulging in non-food “foods” that will destroy the body, failure to maintain health—all of this provides a poor example of righteous and prudent living before the world and other Christians.  Yes, the self-indulging glutton is sinful just as the smoker is sinful.

What should be our response to these Scriptural truths?  God calls on everyone to repent of his sinful ways, including that of violating fundamental health principles (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21; 26:20).  He wants people to turn from their self-centered ways, their pleasure-seeking, their self-destructive practices, and their lack of love.  God calls on everyone—including the smoker—to deny himself and take up the cross of discipleship (Mark 8:34; Luke 14:26; John 12:25).  The smoker must turn from his sin, believe in Jesus Christ, and be baptized into Him and His death (Luke 13:3; John 3:14-18, 36; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 2:11-13).

If you have seen your own need of forgiveness, won’t you accept God’s gracious call to salvation?  He will give you His gift of the Holy Spirit who will enable you to have the power to overcome your slavery to tobacco and every other addictive sin (see Romans 6:1-23, 8:6-8, 13-14).  But you must want this and accept this!  God won’t force Himself on you.  He won’t force you to give up tobacco or any other sinful habit.  It must come from your own sincere desire and heart commitment, from your own repentant faith in God and commitment of your life to Him.  Do you sincerely want deliverance from the depth of your heart?  If so, God will give you His grace and power!  If you have abused your body through drugs, drunkenness, sex, or bad physical practices, God will help you to overcome and live a victorious life in Jesus.  Come to Christ without delay!

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