Thursday, July 06, 2006

Smoking and Halacha

The Rabbinical Council of America just released a report declaring that smoking violates Halacha. My thanks to Jewschool for bringing this to my attention. They rule that no additional Rabbinic ban or edict is necessary because an analysis of Halachic sources, in light of current medical knowledge about smoking, makes it clear that Halacha already forbids smoking. The report is quite interesting, and available for free online, along with a press release from the Rabbinical Council of America

Here is their summary conclusion:

Accordingly, this analysis must lead to the unambiguous conclusion that smoking is clearly and unquestionably forbidden by Halacha and that this should be made known to all who care about the Torah and their health.

A final note is in order: People who smoke are not, Chas Vechalila, doing so in an attempt to flout Halacha. In fact, most would dearly wish to quit, but shedding an addiction is no simple matter. While it is important to make clear that Halacha prohibits smoking, it is also important not to condemn those who struggle with this issue. Rather we must offer our full help and support to aid them in their quest for physical and spiritual health.

At least as important as declaring that smoking is forbidden by Halacha is this final note. Given the ruling that smoking is forbidden by Halacha, dangerous to health and destructive of the holy bodies that G!d gave us, given that smoking is still quite pervasive (the report notes that approximately 25% of adult Americans smoke, and that in some portions of the Jewish community the rate is higher than this), what now? What is our responsibility, communally, to those who struggle with smoking, and with any dangerous addiction? It is my hope that we will not only take to heart this final note, almost an aside in the 11-page report, but that we will also continue to strive to deepen our understanding of our moral communal responsibilities, to explore the actions we can take to help those who struggle with addiction.


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