Is smoking tobacco acceptable in any school of Buddhism?

I think it shouldn't be considered acceptable:

  • because of the fifth precept
  • because of the first precept (smoking is physically harmful, so trying to logically defend smoking is rationalizing suicide)
  • and because smoking is addictive.

The reality of smoking, as I see it, include:

  • 400 chemicals poisoning your physical body
  • pictures of diseased lungs on cigarette packages in Canada
  • having a parent with emphysema spend the last ten years of life hooked to an oxygen tank
  • seeing someone die suddenly from a heart attack or complete heart failure
  • seeing someone go through chemotherapy with toxic chemicals to kill a cancer tumor and the hair loss and vomiting that comes with it
  • seeing people treated for cancer using radiation therapy that leaves behind second and third degree burns on the skin

Also, I think this is not exactly "craving", but rather, "addiction". The power that is has on us is purely a physical addiction: it is not due to the intentions (volition) which the mind creates, it is due to a physical chemical controlling the brain.

I find it amazing that Buddhists want to dance around the issue of addiction and their unwillingness to discuss addiction in modern terms. I challenge Buddhists to not hide from modern addiction problems using irrelevant Buddhist philosophy.

  • Plus it can be intoxicating both physical and mental. For people who practice meditation or Vipasana should avoid smoking since Dizziness and drowsiness might happen if you do. If you need nicotine to keep you fresh, consume just proper amount of caffeine (coffee or tea) during permitted day time.
    – Francesco
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 23:06
  • I have seen something like that, yes: and I'm sorry for your loss.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 23:35
  • I put this question on hold: refer to Should this question be reopened and/or edited?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 23:36
  • @ChrisW I just edited the question, and is in the process of formulating an answer to go with it. Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 23:55
  • 1
    See also Does the fifth precept ban smoking?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 8:27

3 Answers 3


Is smoking tobacco acceptable in any school of Buddhism?

I read that smoking is done.

The Broken Buddha includes these (and other) references to smoking.

  • No Sri Lankan monk would dare to smoke in public because this is believed to infringe the Vinaya but it is quite acceptable for them to chew tobacco. Thailand’s Thammayut sect likewise considers smoking to be contrary to Vinaya but the Mahaniky sect does not.

  • A study released in 2002 showed that the leading cause of death amongst Thai monks was smoking related illnesses.

  • For example, here in Burma, in the afternoon a Bhikkhu can drink iced mineral water but not hot water, must not eat fruit but can smoke a box of cigars, can eat jaggary but not onions, beetel nut and not coconut.

  • When last in Upper Burma I noticed the number of Christian Missions that had sprung up, and when I asked a prominent man the reason he replied, ‘These missionaries have opened schools and hospitals and help us in many ways. They are doing the work of the Lord Buddha while our own Bhikkhus do nothing but sleep and smoke all day.’

  • Thirdly. Food. The present food regulations observed by the Sangha do much more harm than good. They produce ill health, gluttony, bad habits, and dishonesty. Let me explain what I see almost daily. A Monk goes around with a bowl in the morning, gets meat, fish, fowl, rice, etc, food that heats the blood and has little nourishment. But he must eat it all before noon and then starve for eighteen hours, so he stuffs down much more usually than he can digest and so has to sleep for some hours after. Late in the afternoon he gets hungry and then has to chew tobacco, pan leaf and jaggery, and smoke innumerable cigarettes and cigars. Bad health often results, and while boys in day schools are taught that smoking is ruinous to health, in the Order they are actually encouraged to do so.

  • In Ceylon and Burma for example, a Bhikkhu can smoke but must not drink beer, but in Tibet a monk drinks as much native beer as he pleases but never smokes, which is a most serious offence.

Also this answer was from someone who is known as a monk. I think it's defensive about smoking, saying that:

  • Smoking is less harmful than cars, chocolate, or burgers (I think he means "less harm for others" rather than "less harm for the smoker")
  • The fifth precept is more about "heedlessness" and smoking (unlike e.g. alcohol) doesn't cause heedlessness
  • Sila ("virtue") is about not harming others; a recluse, smoking in private, is relatively harmless
  • I watched on in shock as a monk in dark red robes smoked a cigar (while wearing aviator shaped sunglasses) at Lumbini (said to be the birth city of the Buddha). Same monk then asked me for money, maybe he wasn't actually a monk but a conman dressed in robes, I have no idea either way. Several monasteries I stayed at or visited in India (usually the Abbott was from Thailand or elsewhere, not India) I saw groups of monks of various ages smoking. It seems to be open and regarded as acceptable in some monasteries. Not here to judge, but I was a bit stunned—in my innocence & idealism of monastics. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 7:05

Obviously, smoking is not compatible with the Noble Eightfold Path.

In Asian Buddhist countries, the majority of monks serve a social/cultural purpose & therefore do not practise the (entire) Noble Eightfold Path and may smoke as a cultural norm.


Smoking is highly addictive and results in severe craving when one tries to stop smoking. Addicts are not thinking about dharma, only when can I have my next cigarette/cigar. It damages the body and hurts the breath. It interferes with mindfulness of the breath and destroys equanimity. It is the number one cause of preventable death world wide. It is a poor use of dana, people only smoke to keep the craving at bay and what a poor use of dana when people are going hungry, need medicine and education. it is slothful and dirty.

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