Review Article

Vape Gods and Judaism—E-cigarettes and Jewish Law

Sharon Galper Grossman


Objective: To review current medical literature on the risks and potential benefits of e-cigarette use and its permissibility under Jewish law. Methods: A survey of current medical literature about the risks and potential benefits of e-cigarette use, and a review of existing rabbinic literature regarding both combustible and e-cigarette products. Results: E-cigarettes contain fewer harmful materials than do combustible cigarettes. However, they are not risk-free. Their skyrocketing use among youth is of concern, as e-cigarettes lead to nicotine addiction and are a gateway to combustible cigarettes. Preliminary data indicate that e-cigarettes increase the risk of myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema and are no more effective as aids to smoking cessation than US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved interventions with acceptable safety profiles. Few halakhic decisors have opined on the permissibility of e-cigarettes, but extrapolating from halakhic discussions regarding combustible cigarettes strongly suggests that they would prohibit e-cigarettes based on government warnings and preliminary data demonstrating increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, at the least because of possible danger (safek sakana). Among youth and pregnant women, for whom e-cigarettes are particularly dangerous and for whom the government has administered explicit warnings, a Jewish legal prohibition should be absolute. There is a unique obligation to prevent youth from obtaining these products. Jewish law might also prohibit deriving benefit from the sale or advertisement of these products. Conclusions: Extrapolating from rabbinic literature regarding combustible cigarettes, the preliminary data establishing the dangers of e-cigarettes and the government warnings against usage would render these products prohibited under Jewish law, especially for youth and pregnant women.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2019;10(3):e0019