Tobacco

Jewish authorities have much to say about using, and abusing, this substance.

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Anxious to satisfy the dictates of both his father and teacher, he decided that he would take cigarettes into his mouth without actually smoking them.

In Light of Medical Research

In more recent years, when medical research has demonstrated that there is a causal relationship between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer (and heart disease), a number of Rabbis, especially Conservative Rabbis, have suggested that the Halakhah now be invoked to forbid smoking as injurious to health. Undoubtedly, the Jewish tradition is emphatic that health should be preserved but it is somewhat questionable whether the Halakhah can be invoked in this area.

There is a risk as well as advantages in smoking, as there is in imbibing alcohol and in failing to have a sensible diet, and, indeed, in driving a motor car. Each individual should at his own discretion balance the risks against the advantages. To be sure most people will probably decide that the risk is not worth taking and this outweighs any advantages, but such decisions cannot be made a matter of Jewish law. Or, in any event, this seems to be the attitude of law-abiding Jews who do smoke.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.