The Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places
- Smoking in a place where it disturbs others, even if it seems that the
smoke could not possibly cause harm or disease, is forbidden by the Torah.
- A person who smokes constantly may not even smoke in his own house if the
smoke reaches a person who could be harmed by it. If he does not smoke
constantly, he may not smoke if the smoke reaches a place where there might
be a person who could be harmed by it.
- A person who is disturbed by smoking may request a smoker to stop even if
the smoker began smoking before he arrived.
- Even if the majority of people insist that smoking does not bother them,
and even if they argue that if they stopped smoking, they would not be able
to learn Torah as well, an individual who is disturbed by smoking has a
right to request them to stop smoking.
- All of the above applies even where the smoke could not possibly cause any
harm or disease. The smoker should note that the prohibition of smoking in
public places applies with even greater stringency where there is a
possibility that a weak or sensitive individual might be damaged by smoke.
Many people, for example, suffer from allergies that are severely aggravated
by tobacco smoke. The smoker is obligated by the Torah to distance himself
from anyone who is disturbed by smoking. In fact, there are many people who
do not learn in a beis midrash because they are disturbed by the smoking.
- Therefore, according to halachah, it is forbidden to smoke in all
public places. Similarly, it is forbidden for teachers and lecturers to
smoke, even if no one expresses any objections. People who are disturbed by
smoking are often reluctant to express their discomfort, even if, as often
happens, they suffer headaches or breathing difficulties.
- To cause pain to an individual is to bring pain to an entire world. A
person incurs the punishment of Heaven for even the slightest distress he
causes others. (Sefer Hasidim)
- Smokers should take note that the medical profession has universally and
unequivocally acknowledged that smoking is hazardous to health. The
detrimental effects of smoking may take years to emerge, but everyone can
see that smoking causes disease. In the past, when the danger of smoking was
not so clearly established, there were poskim who permitted smoking by
invoking the principle that Hashem protects fools, that is, that
Hashem protects people from dangers they are unaware of.
- Today, it is no longer possible to invoke the above principle to permit
smoking, for it has been clearly established and widely publicized that
smoking is dangerous. Today, a smoker acts in flagrant disregard for the
Torah’s admonition to guard one’s life from danger. For this reason,
prominent Poskim have determined that smoking is no longer permitted on
holidays. It was permitted in the past only because it was regarded as
something that anyone might do. Now that smoking has been shown to be a
life-threatening habit, it can no longer be permitted on the holidays on
that basis. Accordingly, the smoker should consider that when he smokes he
might be violating the Torah prohibition of lighting fire on holidays.
- What emerges from all the above is that smokers should stop smoking. If
they can not do it alone, they should consult a specialist who can assist
them. “Heaven helps those who strive to be pure.”
- A great talmid chochom who had been a heavy smoker was told by his
doctor that his lungs had been practically destroyed by smoking, and that he
would die within a month. The great man called a minyan to his bedside and
said, “It is clear to me that I will be judged by the heavenly court as a
suicide, for I have killed myself with smoking even though I was aware that
it was dangerous. I hope that confessing my regret for what I have done, and
admonishing you not to do as I did, will be accepted as a partial atonement
for my sin.”