By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Is smoking a sin in the sight of God?
Reply: Medical reports show that cigarette smoking is one of the nation’s leading killers. An are familiar with the statement issued by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force: “The ever-increasing evidence linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer, pulmonary diseases, cardio-vascular diseases, etc., can no longer be ignored.” The U.S. Public Health service said, “That smoking is a hazard to health is known by practically everybody who has studied the subject. In this country, an overwhelming majority of physicians, the American Medical Association, numerous other professional organizations, and the Congress of the United States have accepted the evidence that smoking is a health hazard. To our knowledge, no medical or scientific body in the world has taken the position that it is not” (Congressional Record, Volume 114, Number 5 1, March 27, 1%8). According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer today kills approximately 43,000 persons in the United States annually. To clarify the connection with cigarette smoking, highlights of a study were presented to the American Medical Association in June 1957. At that time, it was concluded that the lung cancer death rates were ten times as high among regular smokers as among those who never smoked. Among a two-pack-a-day smokers the rate was more than twenty times as high as among nonsmokers. Men who stopped smoking had a lower lung cancer rate. Those who smoked a pack or more a day, but who had given up smoking for at least one year, had a death rate less than half that of those who continued smoking. (This report furnished by the American Cancer Society.) Smoking is not only hazardous to the health of the smoker himself but also to those around him. Nonsmokers who have respiratory problems (perhaps unknown to the smoker) such as asthma, emphysema and allergies, often suffer from the second hand smoke which they must inhale from the smoker.
But people continue to smoke, in spite of all the warnings and evidence of smoking being a health hazard. It is not uncommon to see a young child of elementary school age with a cigarette in his mouth. Millions, no doubt, become addicted to the use of tobacco because of their susceptibility to worldly influence. Peer pressure is a cause for so many pursuing the habit. The misery of one suffering from lung cancer, emphysema and other related diseases (which may have resulted from cigarette smoking) are not shown in the commercial advertisements of tobacco companies. Films are available which portray patients suffering in misery from such diseases, and even some in their dying condition, requesting an opening to be made in the throat so that a cigarette can be inserted. They must have a few last puffs from it. As in the words of the song, people continue to “puff, puff, puff that cigarette!”
Smoking involves more than health. Paul wrote: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Can one say that he is glorifying God when addicted to smoking?
Cigarette smoking enslaves the user. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any.” There is a lawful use of appetites but no one is to become a slave to a habit, whether it be alcohol, tobacco or some other drug. Gluttony is prohibited in any area of the appetite. Nicotine is definitely a drug. Dr. Richard H. Overholt, a Boston chest surgeon said: “The body of the long term smoker requires a replenished supply of nicotine for a feeling of well being. He is the victim of drug addiction.” Dr. Alton Ochsner said, “Tobacco is a poison . . . it is as harmful and addictive as any drug, perhaps even more so.” (Quotations from article, “King Nicotine or King Jesus?,” by Don Potts, Truth Magazine, Vol. 20, p. 635). The habitual smoker cannot do without his cigarette because he is addicted; he is enslaved by the nicotine which his body craves.
Cigarette smoking is not a good example to others. This should be admitted by the smoker himself. We cannot conceive of any smoker who would encourage his child to smoke; in fact, most if not all, would discourage his child or anyone else from taking up the habit. We are told by Paul in Philippians 2:15,16: “that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life A member of the church who smokes cannot exert the best influence upon others. Even many who are not Christians frown upon the use of tobacco. What effect does a member of the church have upon the nonsmoking outsider when he lights up a cigarette and smokes?
To summarize it: (1) Cigarette smoking is harmful to one’s health. There is sufficient and reliable evidence as to the harm that. results from cigarette smoking. It may do irreparable damage to the body. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19,20). (2) Smoking enslaves the user and (3) it has a destructive influence. We are to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
Much more can be said on the subject of smoking. In view of what I know, involving both medical and scriptural considerations, it would be a sin for me to smoke because it would violate my conscience. Each should carefully consider and evaluate the facts and then decide for himself whether smoking is a sin. All must agree that it is a dangerous, unclean and expensive habit. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1, 2).
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 7, p. 196
April 5, 1984