Rana Rais Khan confronts the smokers with the sheer reality of religious and medical proofs regarding the harms of smoking.
Naissance of Tobacco
Most likely, Mexicans were the first ones to know about tobacco – over 2500 years ago. A Spanish explorer brought the tobacco plant from Mexico to Spain during the reign of King Philip II. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, smoking became quite common all over Europe.
It was through Europe that Africans and Asians learnt about smoking. A Jewish man carried tobacco to Morocco and the neighbouring Arab countries towards the end of the 10th century after Hijra (16th century AD), while a Christian took it all the way from England to Turkey. It reached Egypt, the Hijaz, and the countries of central Africa.
Rulings on Smoking
According to Dr. Ahmed Al-Haji Al-Kardi: “Smoking has not been mentioned during the period of Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence), in which the Shariah was formalized and classified. However, following generations of Fiqh scholars took it upon themselves to study the practice of smoking, since it appeared to be an underlying cause of increasing occurrences of acts of disobedience.”
This was certainly not an impediment. However, scholars have not reached a consensus. Some consider it Haram (forbidden), while others – Makrooh (disliked). Each opinion mentions the sins, with which smoking is associated, and justifies it with Daleel (proof). Following is an analysis of the ruling that considers smoking Haram and substantiates this claim. Allah knows best.
Smoking Being Haram
Based on research, medical doctors report that smoking is harmful to health in general and is the cause of some 25 different illnesses. Hence, scholars categorize it as Haram, based on Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth: “There should be no damage made and no causing of damage” (Ibn Majah). Besides, Allah in Quran forbids believers to harm themselves: “And do not kill yourselves (or one another). Indeed, Allah is to you ever merciful.” (An-Nisa 4:29)
Tobacco kills a smoker every eight seconds. Generally, smokers are known to die 10 to 12 years earlier than non-smokers. According to data released by World Health Organization (WHO), every year tobacco kills 4.9 million people worldwide. About 500 million people alive today will be eventually killed by tobacco.
The FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) requires all tobacco companies to cover at least 30% of every cigarette pack with health warnings and to ban euphemistic adjectives, such as ‘light’ or ‘mild,’ to describe cigarettes. Even those, who manufacture it, concede to this requirement, because they are aware that smoking is injurious to health.
Tobacco contains intoxicating drugs, and all intoxicants are Haram. Umm Salamh says: “The Prophet of Allah (sa) forbade every intoxicant and everything that produces languor” (Abu Dawood).
Smoking causes bad breath, which is not permissible. This is justified by the Hadeeth narrated by Jabir: “The angels dislike, whatever the children of Adam dislike.” (Muslim)
For passive smokers, the danger of smoke doesn’t lessen. For this very reason even in secular countries, such as USA, no-smoking zones have been created not to jeopardize public health.
Smoking is a waste, and waste is Haram. The following Quranic verses support this: “.. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shaitan…” (Al-Isra 17:26-27)
Economically the downside to smoking is copious. In countries, such as USA, medical care for smoking-related illnesses costs about USD50 billion annually. Pakistan government cannot even dream of spending this kind of money on healthcare, though similar illnesses cost exorbitantly households, which have patients suffering from smoking-related diseases.
In the developing nations, where food is scarce, fertile land is used to cultivate tobacco for the top five consumers of the world: China, Japan, USA, Russia, and Indonesia. The poor simply go hungry. Many middle class people spend a large proportion of their income on tobacco rather than food.
In developed nations, careless disposal of cigarettes has been a leading cause for starting forest fires.
Pakistan — A Haven for Tobacco Industry
Dr. Zubair Shaheen reported in Dawn, how the tobacco industry has discovered a haven in many developing countries, where the regulations are often lax. To capture emerging markets, they lower the prices, advertise generously, and promote their product, especially among the youth. Pakistan Paediatric Association states that 1,000 to 1,200 children between the ages of six and sixteen years take up smoking every day.
Pakistan has ratified the FCTC, which is the world’s first global agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control. Issues addressed in the FCTC include tobacco advertising, promotion, smuggling, taxes, cessation, treatment, passive smoking, and tobacco product regulations.
The government of Pakistan has promulgated the ordinance entitled “Prohibition of Smoking at Public Places and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002” aimed to restrict the promotional campaigns of tobacco industry. These restrictions, though partial in nature, are the first statutory move towards restricting smoking. There is urgent need now for effective implementation of laws and regulations.
Ironically, according to Pakistna Tobacco Corporation, since 1947 Pakistan has earned approximately Rs.54 billion worth of revenue. It also offers jobs to nearly 2 million individuals. This can be a temptation for the government to look the other way.
The Irreversible Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking
The American Council on Science and Health has disclosed the following ailments that can affect smokers:
Smoking is a cause of lung cancer. It directly irritates and damages the respiratory tract, leading to bad breath, cough, sputum production, and wheezing.
Heart and Circulation
It is also responsible for Atherosclerosis (the progression of fatty deposits in the carotid artery) and Cerebrovascular accident or stroke that causes brain damage.
Eyes and Vision
Macular degeneration (irreversible form of blindness) and cataracts (clouding of the lenses) are some of the results of smoking.
Mouth and Throat
Smoking can lead to mouth, throat, and esophageal cancer, gum disease, tooth loss, and permanent damage to the larynx tissues.
Smoking decreases esophageal sphincter pressure leading to esophagitis and to permanent esophageal stricture. It is also a risk factor for pancreatic and colon cancer.
Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones due to loss of bone minerals) in women and spinal disk disease in both sexes can be developed by smokers.
Infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth are more common among smokers. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is another risk factor.
Smoking causes premature facial wrinkling through vasoconstriction of the capillaries of the face.
As rational humans, none of us would dare to consume poison, since we realize it will lead us to instant death. However, we ignore all the warnings that do not have an instant impact, such as puffing cigarettes. Whether smoking is a need, social practice, or a stress reliever, kick the habit for lifetime, before you become a statistic, too. No further evidence or debate is required to prove that if you smoke, you are on your way to taking your own life.