There was a time when smoking was considered a healthy activity. Stress is bad for you and since smoking helped people relax, it was considered as good for you. This was before it was shown that smoking cigarettes causes cancer in the 1950s and 1960s. It would be very difficult to criticise anyone for smoking before that.
Now, we are well aware of many smokers dying from cancer caused by their smoking. It is true that some smokers never develop cancer, but it is certainly a risk. All smokers damage their lungs, although for some it is much more than others.
In addition, second hand smoke (breathing what other people are smoking) is also considered to be harmful today. Whether or not you are concerned for your health, you should be concerned with the effects of your actions on those around you. Why should your children or even strangers on the street have to breathe smoke just because you lack self-control in where you smoke?
That last statement introduces another problem with smoking. It is addictive. Again, some smokers are more addicted than others. However, any smoker is addicted to some extent. Why else would they be willing to pay such high prices for cigarettes or compromise their morals and buy illegal counterfeit cigarettes at lower prices? While smoking does not have the same terrible consequences as most illegal drugs, it does share their addictive nature.
Many compare this with an addiction to caffeine. Why would we criticise being addicted to cigarettes if we drink tea or coffee? The difference is that most people can go without tea or coffee and only develop a headache if they are “addicted” to it. With cigarettes, there is a powerful drive to get a cigarette. You don’t see people on the street asking for anyone to buy them some tea. You do see that with cigarettes. The type of addiction is quite different. Cigarettes cause people to develop a controlling addiction where they cannot think much of anything but getting their next cigarette if they don’t have one for too long.
One other consideration is that it can kill any good influence you could have on others. If someone sees you smoking, their respect for you can be destroyed as many of us would say that only a fool would smoke (not counting the elderly who started before the dangers were so well-known). I have heard of that happening several times.
Here are some passages that we can look at in connection with these ideas:
1 Corinthians 6:12 says that we should not be mastered by anything. In the context, he is talking about food and sex, but it applies to anything. Anything that has a controlling addictive quality to it should be avoided as much as we can.
Matthew 22:39 says that the second great commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. If our smoking is damaging us and those around us (and we know it), we do not love ourselves or others properly. Because the dangers of smoking are so well-known today, it is difficult to believe any Christian is not aware that their smoking is damaging them and others.
Romans 14:15 talks about hurting your brother through food. The point is that we should give up certain foods if they damage our relationship with our brethren. This would apply to smoking as well.
So while we should be patient with brethren who do not understand things the same way, we should also not just overlook smoking because the Bible does not directly speak about it. We need to carefully apply the biblical principles to what we know about the damage it does physically and to our reputations.