by Dan S. Shipley
As a former smoker, I know how easy it is to ignore messages from the news media and the pulpit that discourage smoking. It is difficult for most of us to be objective in considering that which condemns what we want to practice. As someone as well noted, "Affection is a briber of the judgment; and it is hard for a man to admit a reason against the thing he loves, or to confess the force of an argument against an interest." Convincing Christians to give up tobacco wouldn't be nearly so hard if they could first be convinced to face the issue objectively and with an open mind. And yet, of all people, the Christian should recognize the difficulty of dealing with prejudiced and closed minds. As a follower of Christ, he knows that personal preferences must be subordinated in seeking to please the Lord. The smoking Christian owes it to himself and to the Lord to consider the evidence relative to smoking.
When he does, he will certainly consider such facts as those recently released by the Surgeon General's office in The Health Consequences Of Smoking. In the forward section of that report, Dr. E.N. Brandt, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Health, writes: "Cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. Tobacco's contribution to all cancer deaths is estimated to be 30 percent and cigarette smokers have total cancer death rates two times greater than do nonsmokers. Heavy smokers have a three to four times greater excess risk of cancer mortality...There is no single action an individual can take to reduce the risk of cancer more effectively than quitting smoking..." According to statistics released from the Public Health Service research, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and coronary heart disease are the principal causes of death attributable to cigarette smoking, but they are not the only ones. They have concluded that the rate of early death from all causes ranges from 40 to 120 percent higher for smokers than nonsmokers, depending upon the amount smoked daily. It is not without good reason that the word "Warning" appears on the cigarette package. Those who are told to glorify God in the body (I Corinthians 6:20), should seriously consider the health hazards of smoking.
Equally important for the smoking Christian to consider is the possibility of enslavement to tobacco. To be brought under the power of a habit is to violate the principle of 1 Cor 6:12. For the smoker who wants to know, "What about the glutton, the cokeaholic, the coffeeholic?" The same principle applies equally to them! With Paul, every Christian must resolve, "I will not be brought under the power of any." Rather, "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage" (I Corinthians 9:27).
Finally, the Christian smoker must consider the possibility that smoking may hurt his influence. Shouldn't every Christian be "an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life" (I Timothy 4:12)? Justified or not, many are offended by the smell, the pollution, and being forced to inhale second-hand smoke. Honestly now -- everything considered, wouldn't it be better if Christians didn't smoke?