<Name@Withheld> in Boston University, Boston MA wrote:
I receive your "Ask the Rabbi" and I truly enjoy it. Though I don't have that many questions, it is always interesting to see others' questions, and the answers. I truly learn a lot from this weekly email.
Recently, there was a question about smoking, and that many rabbis have taken the step to forbid it. I think that this is good, but the part that I don't understand is where certain rabbis have said that one should not smoke, but if one finds it difficult to not smoke, one should at least not do so around others. This makes no sense to me. If one's rabbi has said something is forbidden, then it should not be done. By saying that it is OK if you find it difficult to avoid makes no sense. What if someone finds it difficult to avoid smoking on Shabbat. It is then okay?
There's a subtle difference between smoking during the week and smoking on Shabbat: All rabbis unanimously rule that smoking on Shabbat is forbidden. It's an explicit verse in the Torah, "Don't kindle fire on the day of Shabbat." (Shemot 35:3).
A prohibition against smoking, however, is not as clear cut, and not all Rabbis subscribe to it, at least not yet.
Furthermore, the rabbis who signed the ban are aware of the current reality, which is that significant numbers might ignore such a ban, and will justify themselves in doing so (see "Public Domain - Re: Down in Smoke" below).
Since this bears on the health of others, the rabbis urged those who will ignore the ban at least to refrain from smoking around others.