Volume 46 Number 51
                    Produced: Thu Jan  6  6:15:23 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Smoking Ban (8)
         [Russell J Hendel, Bernard Raab, Gershon Dubin, Josh Backon,
Orrin Tilevitz, Eitan Fiorino, Maslow, David (NIH/NCI),
Yitzchak Scott-Thoennes]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 2 Jan 2005 22:08:56 -0500
Subject: Smoking Ban

I published a small letter to the editor in Tradition (around 1980) in
which I review Rav Moshe's allowance of smoking. That letter also answers
such questions as 'how can we prohibit smoking but not prohibit
obesity'(raised by some postings). I succinctly summarize this letter
below.  I make it clear in the letter that the gedolim are obligated to
place a ban on smoking; my arguments clearly show that normal political
considerations do not apply(the ban must be placed).

The starting point for a prohibition on smoking are two contrasting
laws. Rambam Character 4 states 'Certain fruits are bad in
excess---nevertheless we do not prohibit them.'  By contrast in murder
12 Rambam prohibits (with punishment of rabbinic lashes) sucking coins
because 'coins have dirt and bacteria and these can cause harmful
affects'. Rambam Murder 12 makes it clear that there is a biblical
obligation to abstain from anything injurious (In the old days venom
could get into uncovered water and hence that chapter discusses the
prohibition of water left in the open).

Any discussion on smoking must address these two laws-fruit vs coin--why
the disparity. In my letter I distinguish between items redemptive to
society (like walking the streets or eating foods) and items that are
not redemptive(like sucking coins).  My point is that certain activities
are beneficial in small amounts but harmful in large amounts (or harmful
if sufficient watching has not taken place). These activities like
eating excessive fruit are advised against but not prohibited. By
contrast: Activities which have no benefit--like sucking coins-- that is
the activity, not its quantity is harmful--are prohibited.

Using these distinctions we can clearly see that a) smoking is
prohibited b) excessive eating is advised against but not outright
prohibited (There is a separate obligation for an obese person to lose
weight but this obligation does not specifically prohibit say eating a
piece of cake at a meal).

In my article I point out a third consideration besides the above two
distinctions how Judaism must appear modern and current with the
times. Therefore it is a grave sin if Rabbis ignore this golden
opportunity to apply Judaism to a new issue-- smoking.

Finally( a fourth principle) I bring up the fact that a general law in
the talmud states that health prohibitions are more severe than ritual
prohibitions.  Consequently the normal lattitude we give in minor ritual
prohibitions (if at all!) does not exist here. It is incumbent on every
gadol and every Rabbi to prohibit smoking and encourage congregants and
followers to prohibit smoking.

The only leniency I would see is that if a person is already smoking he
need not quit, cold turkey. He has the right to go thru a rehab program
(and is not in violation while attending the program).

Finally: I remember when the surgeon general's report came out. The
Rabbi of my shule, Rabbi Benjamin Sharfman (offer the "blue set" of
linear Rashi translation) came out and made a speech that it is
prohibited. The sexton of the synagogue, the person who taught me how to
lein, was a chain smoker (3 packs a day). Cold turkey the Rabbis speech
encouraged him to quit. So Rabbis do have influence on people and they
must act

Russell Jay Hendel

From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2005 00:51:35 -0500
Subject: Re: Smoking Ban

A y'asher koach to Akiva Miller for translating R Moshe Ferinstein's
letter to Rabbi Aaron Kirshenbaum (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:49 )
"Regarding Smoking Cigarettes ".

This letter was written in 1963. R. Moshe recognizes that some harm can
come from smoking but is obviously concerned that many Rabonnim,
including some Gedolim, indulged. In fact in 1963 one could still find
many doctors who were smokers, which is very rare today. I suspect that
if R. Moshe were writing this letter today, when the evidence on the
many harmful effects of smoking is so clear, his conclusion might be
different. Of course an inhibiting factor is that some Rabonim continue
to indulge and one would be very reluctant to make it an inyon of issur
v'heter under these circumstances. Nevertheless, Roshei Yeshiva have an
obligation to their talmidim to prevent harmful habits from developing,
and they could easily find it in their power, I suspect, to enforce a
ban on smoking not just on Shabbos but 24/7.

There is another issue which has troubled me for many years. As a young
single man I shared a hotel room with a young orthodox rabbi who was a
heavy smoker. His addiction was such that he sneaked a smoke in the
bathroom on Shabbos. I pretended not to notice, of course, but I felt
extremely sorry for him that he could be thus reduced by a chemical
dependence.  And ever since, I have wondered how many religious smokers
are similarly afflicted. One more reason for the Roshei Yeshiva to ban
this noxious habit.

b'shalom--Bernie R.

From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 00:01:36 -0500
Subject: Smoking Ban

From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
<<Exactly!  Not to seem callous, but these yeshiva bochurim are allowed
to start smoking with no discouragement (whereas if they were seen going
to a movie, watching TV or talking to a girl, or even listening to a
radio in some circles) they would be kicked out immediately.>>

In America, there _is_ serious discouragement (except of course from his
"cool" friends), up to the matter of shidduchim.  It is quite common
nowadays to turn down a shidduch for the sole reason that the bachur
smokes, AND they know it.


From: <BACKON@...> (Josh Backon)
Date: Tue,  4 Jan 2005 17:17 +0200
Subject: Re: Smoking Ban

I'd guess the reason why R. Riskin ruled that throwing out a friend's
cigarettes is neither Baal Tashchit or Gezeila would be similar to the
halacha in Yoreh Deah 303:1 where if you see someone wearing Shaatnez
d'oraita, one must RIP IT OFF (the term used is "v'kor'o" which means
rip it off and not just remove it).  It's also possible that because of
"hezek acherim" (danger of passive smoking) (See: Aruch haShulchan
Choshen Mishpat 378 on "hezek mamon") and AH CM 412 #4) it wouldn't be a
punishable offense.

Josh Backon

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2005 10:24:58 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Smoking Ban

About 12 years ago I was sitting in a daf yomi shiur learning, I guess,
Beitza when the magid shiur quoted a korban netanel which said that
smoking on yom tov was permissible because it added to the enjoyment of
yom tov.  About 6 guys immediately jumped down the maggid shiur's
throat, saying that the question was whether smoking was permissible at
all, and that the Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia (and another rav; I
forget who) had banned it altogether. There was no dissent.  Nobody
mentioned R. Moshe Feinstein's tshuva permitting smoking although that
group undoubtedly had read it.  Incidentally, R. Moshe Tendler, who is
Rabbi Feinstein's son-in-law, has been quoted as saying that smoking is
like eating pork, and had his father-in-law been aware of current
scientific research he would have reversed his position.

From: Eitan Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 18:17:32 -0500
Subject: RE: Smoking Ban

> In the latest Efrat magazine, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin discusses 
> the following question: If one sees a friend smoking, is one 
> permitted to take his or her cigarette pack and throw it 
> away, or is that Bal Tashchit?
> He rules clearly that it is permissible and may be imperative 
> to throw away the cigarettes, because of the demonstrated 
> effects of cigarette smoking on one's health.

This ruling seems to assume that smoking a cigarette presents some kind
of immediate danger to the smoker's health (in contrast to the obvious
and well known chronic health effects of smoking).  Seeing someone
smoking is NOT the same as seeing someone pointing a loaded gun at
his/her head or otherwise placing themselves in immediate danger.  While
it is true that components of cigarette smoke including nicotine are
vasoactive and can have some acute cardiovascular toxicity (though much
less so in chronic smokers), in fact there is also some morbidity
associated with the withdrawal syndrome experienced by chronic smokers
(beginning within hours of the last cigarette).  Nicotine withdrawal
could present a greater ACUTE health risk than the cigarette itself!!
Perhaps we should be running around and handing lit cigarettes to every
smoker we know!!  There are plenty of other activities that produce more
acute health risk than does smoking - including, for example, eating a
high-fat meal (which causes rapid changes in vascular reativity) - am I
required to snatch a donut away from a fellow Jew?  Taking a run
probably creates more acute cardiovascular risk than does taking a smoke
- shall I tackle the next jogger I see?

This may sound silly but there is a point - with no disrespect intended
to Rabbi Riskin, piskei halacha based on faulty understanding (in this
case of the acute health risks of smoking) can lead to halachic
absurdities that do a great disservice to the process of psak by making
it seem, frankly, silly.  I would guess in this case Rabbi Riskin was
making a rhetorical point about the dangers of smoking and that halacha
takes those health risks seriously, but by chosing to express this in
the form of a (real or imaginary) psak, he has actually undermined his

-Eitan Fiorino, MD, PhD

From: Maslow, David (NIH/NCI) <maslowd@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2005 08:12:01 -0500 
Subject: Smoking Ban

I am grateful to Akiva Miller for posting (MJ 46:46) an excerpt from Rav
Moshe Feinstein's 1963 tshuvah on cigarette smoking.  I was aware of
this tshuvah, and the text provided confirms that Rav Moshe agreed that
smoking may be harmful and it is preferable to avoid smoking. He did not
forbid (assur) it for current smokers.  However, I had heard that in the
full tshuvah, Rav Moshe also stated that starting smoking was a more
serious halachic issue than stopping the on-going practice.  This seems
to be confirmed by Jeffrey Kaufman (MJ 46:49), who recounts a shiur from
Rav Reuven Feinstein in which he stated that while Rav Moshe did not
forbid continuing smoking for those who began before the health risks
were made public, he did say there is no heter for anyone to start
smoking today.

With all the information that has accumulated since the 1963 tshuvah on
the multiple health risks of smoking, including admission by the
cigarette manufacturing companies of the dangers involved, can we rely
solely on Rab Moshe conclusion of 1963?  Since this is, as I understand
it, a halachic issue of doing danger to oneself, should it be revisited
as the facts regarding the danger have changed?

Secondly, can anyone confirm that starting smoking was specifically
addressed in Rav Moshe's 1963 tshuvah, and it what way?

David E. Maslow

From: Yitzchak Scott-Thoennes <sthoenna@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 00:15:44 -0800
Subject: Re: Smoking Ban

Akiva Miller:
> My understanding of the above is that although there is a prohibition
> against doing dangerous things, not *all* dangerous things are included
> in that prohibition, and in the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein, smoking
> is an example of something which *is* dangerous but is *not* forbidden.

A number of years ago I heard from my rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, that
(if I recall the details correctly) shomer pasaim Hashem (Hashem
protects the naive) only applies when 1) the danger is minimal and 2)
the danger is commonly ignored, and that later in life Rav Moshe
Feinstein verbally indicated that he no longer felt either condition
necessarily applied to smoking.  Since 1963 there's been a lot more
knowlege available of the effects of smoking, and there's also been a
prominent movement away from smoking; even those who smoke commonly wish
they could stop.


End of Volume 46 Issue 51