A recent survey reveals that 17 percent of Israel's chareidi
population smoke, as opposed to 28 percent of the general
sector. The survey was conducted at the request of Rabbi
Yechezkel Eschayek, who is involved in efforts to explain the
hazards of smoking to the chareidi public.
The survey encompassed 500 chareidi families; 265 people from
the sample (51 percent) were interviewed. Data indicate that
11 percent of the avreichim interviewed smoke
regularly, along with 16 percent of all yeshiva students and
27 percent of working men. The statistics are both surprising
and encouraging, since a study published four years ago in the
British Journal of Medicine indicated that the
percentage of smokers in the chareidi sector was 28 percent
higher than that of the overall population. This would mean
that in that period, 35 percent of the chareidi sector smoked.
Rabbi Eschayek notes that the significant drop in the
percentage of chareidi smokers stems from its compliance with
the mandate of gedolei Yisroel and informative
activities conducted during the past year on the issue of
Rabbi Eschayek, whose efforts are being encouraged by HaRav
Chaim Kanievsky, visited maranan verabonon last year.
They issued a letter in which they warned against taking one's
health lightly. The letter, addressed to nonsmokers and
published for the first time a year-and-a-half ago, states:
"Please, my brothers, don't harm yourselves and your
surroundings, and don't accustom yourselves to smoking,
because our sacred Torah is Toras Chaim, as it is written,
`vechai bohem.' Hashem wants each and every one of us
to safeguard his health so that we can serve Him. No one may
make light of the matter of preserving one's health,
especially by an activity that doctors have determined is a
dangerous practice. Whoever can refrain from smoking and
prevent others from smoking is obligated to do so."
In their appeal to those who already smoke, maranan
verabonon wrote: "Such people must make every effort to
stop smoking, and particularly to refrain from smoking in
public places, where others inhale the smoke." The letter was
signed by HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, HaRav Aharon Leib
Steinman, HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, HaRav Michel Yehuda
Lefkowitz, HaRav Nissim Karelitz and HaRav Shmuel Auerbach.
Concomitant with this letter, a letter was issued by HaRav
Shmuel Halevi Wosner, av beis din of Zichron Meir,
stating, "It is obvious that according to halocho it is
absolutely forbidden to begin smoking at a young age, and
parents, teachers and mechanchim have a distinct Torah
obligation to prevent them from adopting this habit. Whoever
has accustomed himself to this bad habit should make every
effort to stop gradually, for the sake of his future, and he
will benefit from doing so. One must not smoke in public
places because cigarette fumes are very harmful."
Letters culled from the seforim of the Chofetz Chaim
warning against smoking were published around the same time,
as was a letter by HaRav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, also decrying
the bad habit of smoking.
In the wake of the survey results, on Shabbos Parshas
Re'ei, 80,000 leaflets containing the letters of
maranan verabonon the gedolei Yisroel about the
hazards of smoking were distributed in synagogues all over the
country. These leaflets are addressed to youth, students of
the yeshivos hakedoshos. Throughout Elul, 20,000
additional leaflets will be distributed in the yeshivos.
Similar activities were conducted last year in the chareidi
sector, and as indicated by the survey, the results were
excellent. The appeals of maranan verabonon were
distributed in the Hadassah hospitals in Jerusalem and to
chareidi members of the Maccabi, Klalit and Leumit sick funds,
as well as in all Jerusalem synagogues, through the Religious
A law forbidding smoking in public places was recently passed.
Rabbi Eschayek says that he hopes that the widespread efforts
to explain the hazards of smoking to the chareidi sector will
result in an additional drop in the number of smokers, and in
the curtailment of smoking in public places.