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Is smoking a sin?

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Nearly one third of all adults smoke tobacco, even though, thanks to education programs, it is now common knowledge that smoking is harmful. According to the World Health Organization, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. Nearly one tenth of deaths worldwide are attributable to tobacco; one fifth in the United States. Knowingly damaging our body flies in the face of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which states that our body is the temple of God and has been bought with the blood of Christ. We are to glorify God with our bodies, and to do otherwise is sin. But is this the only go-to verse that relates to smoking?

"'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything." 1 Corinthians 6:12b
This is a hard verse because it means not only is it a sin to voluntarily start a habit that is addictive, it is a sin to continue under the influence of an addictive substance. Addiction is measured by several characteristics, including the severity of withdrawal symptoms, inducement to continue use, the need for more drug to reach the same effect, difficulty in quitting, and the degree of intoxication. Although studies vary—heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and caffeine often fighting for the #2 position—the most addictive drug is nicotine—the active ingredient in tobacco.

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." 1 Corinthians 10:14
People do not start smoking because they want to get sick and waste a lot of money and smell bad. Most smokers started smoking in their teens. And most started because of peer pressure—they valued the opinion of their friends more than they valued biblical principles. They also may have sought the image of being rebellious and cool more than they sought finding their identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The opinion of the world is a powerful idol, but we are exhorted to flee from it.

"'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up." 1 Corinthians 10:23
To edify is to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement. In no way does smoking accomplish this. It insults the intellect by insisting that "looking cool" is more important than good health. It rejects morality by encouraging others to become enslaved. And it definitely harms the smoker's spirituality. An ungodly influence creates a stronghold that can weaken a believer's relationship with God.

"Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." 1 Corinthians 10:24
The American Cancer Society estimates that, in the United States, 50,000 people die from secondhand smoke-induced ailments each year. Up to 300,000 children get lung infections (like pneumonia or bronchitis), and up to 1 million develop asthma because of secondhand smoke. These are victims that are close to the smoker, whom the smoker presumably cares for the most. We are called to love each other. But smoking, like many other sins, hurts those around us.

The Bible is not meant to be a list of dos and don'ts. It is the living, active Word of God that equips us to determine the best way to love God and love others. Although the Bible does not address smoking directly, it's clear from several verses that smoking does not accomplish the will of God. In that, smoking is a sin.

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