The Waterpipe (Nargilah) – the Innocent Killer

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Toldot 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Don’t think the waterpipe (Nargilah) is an innocent device for pleasure and fun. This is a misconception based on two ideas: 1. The smoke is filtered by the water, so there’s no danger. 2. It smells and tastes like the fruit that are pictured on the package. What could be more innocent than fruit, sugar and honey?
These ideas are in fact big mistakes. Smoking a nargilah is a lot more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, and for several reasons, any one of which should suffice to prevent one from indulging in it: 1. The water provides only a partial filter. 2. The water’s moistness soothes the irritation to the breathing passages, so one can inhale the smoke more deeply. 3. Moreover, the water can cause edema in the lungs. 4. The smoke does contain tobacco, and is not supervised the way cigarettes are. It exudes a lot of carcinogens that cause: lung cancer, gum cancer, lip cancer and bladder cancer. 5. Passing the waterpipe around from one person to another can spread various diseases: herpes of the lips, tuberculosis, bronchitis, glandular fever, eczema and other skin diseases. 6. The ritual of smoking a waterpipe takes much more time than smoking a cigarette. It takes 5-7 minutes to smoke a cigarette, and it exudes 0.5 to 0.6 liters of smoke. It takes 70-200 minutes to smoke a waterpipe, giving off 50-600 puffs of 0.05 to 0.25 liters each. Thus, smoking a waterpipe is the equivalent of smoking about a hundred cigarettes! 7. The package does in fact say that the amount of tar and resin it contains is zero. That’s very nice, but they forgot to point out that this material is produced as a by-product when the tobacco is burning. 8. Let’s not talk about the damage caused to the fetus, nor about the damage to the non-smokers all around.
As is known, according to Jewish law it is forbidden to do dangerous things. It’s forbidden to take risks, even slight ones. Whoever does so violates, “Guard yourselves very well” (Devarim 4:15). Thus, for example, one is not allowed to cross a rickety bridge if there is any danger that its collapse would lead to a person’s death, even if the risk of collapse is very low, as explained in Rambam’s Hilchot Rotzeach U-Shemirat Ha-Nefesh.
Additionally, it is forbidden to behave in a manner that harms one’s body, even if each isolated act poses no danger at all. After all, a single cigarette or waterpipe session won’t kill you. Yet the cumulative effect is very dangerous, as Rambam explains (Hilchot De’ot, Chapter 4). There, Rambam explains that one has to conduct oneself in a healthy manner. This is called walking in G-d’s pathways. Also, in Chapter 1 he explains that this is a mitzvah from the Torah: “Walk in His pathways” (Devarim 28:9).
Don’t say it’s not dangerous, that the research doesn’t mean a thing, or that it is a fact that not all die from it. That’s nonsense. It’s true that 100 years ago they didn’t know how dangerous a waterpipe is, but now it’s clear to all, beyond any doubt.
Here’s an interesting example: In 1970, when those grave research studies began to be publicized, 64% of the physicians smoked. By 1980 only 10% smoked.
True, it’s hard to stop smoking.
Smoking actually involves two addictions, one physical and one psychological.
Everything depends on one’s willpower. Even if a person is weak, however, all hope is not lost.
He can cut down on his smoking slowly, gradually. One’s physical and psychological dependency will gradually decrease as well.
Let us just point out that even before 1970 they knew it was dangerous, and many physicians and rabbis forbade smoking.
Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook hung a note in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav telling the boys to stop smoking, and following his request, all the Zionist yeshivot stopped. In the yeshiva high schools there are some smokers, but when they reach post-high -school yeshivot they see their heroes of Torah and military service do not smoke, and then they understand that there is no connection between smoking and masculinity, or between smoking and femininity.
Not smoking also saves a lot of money and saves one from having terrible breath and disgusting yellow teeth. Every eight seconds someone in the world dies from smoking. That’s five million people a year, and the number is rising. During the past 100 years, 100 million have died from smoking.
In our country ten thousand die from smoking every year, with a sixth of them dying from passive smoking - the wife, children or work mates of a smoker. And, as I have already said, waterpipes are 100 times more dangerous than cigarettes.
On average, a smoker shortens his life by fourteen years. Terrible. To say nothing of the awful suffering endured by thousands of smoking-related patients.
Smoke contains 5,000 toxic substances, of which fifty are carcinogenic, and, once more, waterpipes are 100 times worse. So, please, throw your waterpipe in the trash. And if you haven’t started yet, don’t start, even once.
We are in favor of clean air. Clean lungs, a clean mouth, clean living. So smokers: clean up your act. Then we can all breathe more easily.