Young men smoking near Ashdod.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Although Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who smoke cigarettes are just as addicted to nicotine, have the same urge to light up and suffer the same withdrawal symptoms as their secular counterparts, when required by Jewish law to abstain on Shabbat for 25 hours, they hardly feel any of these.
This was the conclusion of a new study at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Bikur Cholim Hospital and Hebrew University- Hadassah University Medical School and published in IMAJ, the Israel Medical Association Journal.
According to the most recent surveys, 23% of Israeli males and 13% of Orthodox Jewish males smoke. Tobacco addiction is more common in men born in Israel and those of North African origin. But until now, there have been no data on smoking patterns, the starting age and the addiction profiles in this population.
Most smokers light up 15 to 30 cigarettes a day.
Dr. Gabriel Munter, Dr. Yehuda Brivik, Yossi Freier-Dror and Dr. Shoshana Zevin recruited 49 observant men from notices in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and in yeshivot for the study, along with a secular control group of 39 men.
Although numerous rabbis consider smoking as violating Jewish law (one is forbidden except in rare cases to endanger one’s health, and smoking has been proven without a doubt to do so), many religious men – and rabbis – are addicted to nicotine and smoke regularly.
The researchers found that there was no significance difference between religious and nonreligious smokers in most symptoms of withdrawal after an overnight abstinence on weekdays. But craving for cigarettes was more pronounced among the observant, with 73% reporting they often or always crave a cigarette after abstinence compared to 64% in the nonreligious. But the percentage of religious smokers experiencing withdrawal symptoms on Shabbat morning after a night without cigarettes was significantly lower than on weekday mornings. Only 35% of the religious craved smoking on Saturday mornings, and most reported that they never or rarely had withdrawal symptoms. However, the urge to smoke increased as the end of Shabbat neared.