Many Gedolim- including R’
R’ Moshe Sternbuch,
R’ Aharon Kotler, R’ Yaakov Kaminetzsky, the Be’er Moshe,
the Tzitz Eliezer-
have already expressed their opinion
that it is forbidden
Some Gedolim even referred to smoking as suicidal.
When R’ Chaim Kanievsky was
asked if smoking is prohibited on Yom Tov, he responded, “It is biblically
prohibited on Yom Tov as well as on any other day of the year for a Jew to
The Chofetz Chaim
(1839-1933) writes, isn’t it said that one is not permitted to harm himself
because of ונשמרתם לנפשותיכם. Additionally, the world belongs to
Hashem… and He gave everyone strength according to his needs. So how can one do
to himself as he pleases…? And if because of his smoking his strength is
weakened, he will assuredly pay the ultimate price at the time of judgment
since he did this of his own free will and not because he was compelled. The
Chofetz Chaim also writes there that smoking costs money. How much does one
spend on cigarettes yearly? So in the end, smoking causes a loss in health,
money and Mitzvos (This is besides the waste of time it causes. If one smokes a
half-hour daily, this comes out to be close to 200 hours annually. Imagine how
many Mitzvos one can do with this time!). When one contemplates the damage it
causes, it can strengthen him not to accustom himself in this. If he is already
accustomed in this, then he should minimize smoking a little each day until he
eventually stops completely.
When R’ Avigdor Miller (1908-2001)
was asked whether smoking was forbidden by the Torah, he cited the Alter of
Slobodka who, responding to a query to name the primary Mitzvah of the Torah,
replied that the principle Mitzvah is, “Don’t be a fool.” R’ Miller explained:
“The first command is to use your head. God gave us brains- we should use them…
Anyone who picks up a pack of cigarettes and reads (the notice on the package)
of the danger of smoking and disregards it, is a שוטה גמור; an absolute fool.
R’ Asher Wiess said that in
his eyes smoking cigarettes is like eating נבילות
(1924-2011) concludes a Teshuva that
there is no reason to make a decree to forbid smoking since כבר מושבע ועומד מהר סיני;
we stand under oath from the time of the Revelation at Har Sinai to fulfill all
as the Torah already tells us ונשמרתם מאד לנפשתיכם, adding
that he would never give a cigarette or even ‘a light’ to anyone, not to
transgress לפני עור
לא תתן מכשל.
In שו"ת עשה לך רב,
R’ Chaim Dovid HaLevi (1924-1998) prohibits purchasing cigarettes for others,
even parents! R’ Gershon Edelstein, current Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch, remarked
that a Rebbi or Maggid Shiur who smokes cannot
set a proper example for his students and shouldn’t be teaching.
is related that Dayan Yisrael Yaakov Fischer
(1928-2003), who permitted smoking year-round (including Yom Tov), at the end
of his life, when he was dying of lung cancer and the doctor said he has about
a month to live, gathered ten men together to publicize in his name that
smoking is truly unequivocally forbidden.
R’ Shach (1899-2001) who was
a heavy smoker stopped smoking immediately when informed by a physician that
the practice was dangerous. Similarly,
it is also said R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (1891-1986) as well as R’ Leib Bakst (1915-2003)
quit ‘cold turkey’ after doctors personally explained to them the health risks
R’ Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (1910-1995)
also stopped smoking when he learned that tobacco causes the infamous sickness.
R’ Shlomo Zalman called on smokers to stop and for those who continued not to
do so in public where others could inhale the smoke. R’ Shlomo Zalman’s
proclamation was signed by R’ Elyashiv, R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman, R’ Nissim
Karelitz and others.
According to a recent study,
smoking kills two-thirds of smokers.
Cigarette smoking is
responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone- including more than 41,000 deaths
resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.
This is about 1,300 deaths every
day. Research has shown that each cigarette makes the smoker die 11
minutes earlier. Smokers lose an average of 13-14.5 years of life. People who
consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their
lifetime had a 64% higher risk of earlier death than never-smokers. Those who
smoked between one and ten cigarettes a day had an 87% higher risk of earlier
death than never-smokers. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that
tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century.
R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
מאד לנפשתיכם and השמר לך
ושמר נפשך מאד (Devarim 4:15, 4:9), although seemingly not actually
referring to guarding one’s physical health but rather religious beliefs and
Torah learned, are still quoted as such, even by early authorities such as the
Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach U’Shmiras HaNefesh 11:4), Maharsha (Brachos 32b, s.v. כתיב) and the Minchas Chinuch (Ki Seitzei, Mitzvah 546:11).