Believe it or not, someone did arrive on Churchmouse Campanologist recently searching for an answer to this question.  The response below is from a Catholic and a Calvinist perspective.

First, for my Catholic readers.  When I was growing up, most of the priests I knew smoked — cigars, mainly, although they had the occasional cigarette.  Then, as I recall, sometime in the 1990s, John Paul II said that smoking was a sin.  Well, despite the best efforts of ASH, WHO and Tobacco Control, Catholic Answers tells us:

Smoking in moderation is not a sin at all (CCC 2290).

Those who smoke heavily (how much is unspecified) may wish (but are not obliged) to discuss the matter with their confessor.  Confessing venial sins of excess brings grace. 

I would add that underage smokers are sinning — although not mortally — because they are breaking the law.  Whilst they can still receive Holy Communion, they should stop smoking illegally.

The Catholic forum tells us that Pope Paul VI smoked.  At Catholicism Pure, Fr Cumanus tells us that St Teresa of Avila, St Alphonsus Liguori and St John Vianney (the Cure d’Ars) took snuff, which was ‘the appropriate form of tobacco consumption for distinguished ecclesiastics’.

Now, to readers of a Calvinist persuasionThe Nicotine Theological Journal editors, John R. Muether and Darryl G. Hart, explain why their publication is so-called (emphases mine):

Now about our name.  Vice President Gore’s sanctimonious and tearful pledge to fight the wicked weed that produced part of his family fortune is but the latest example of the fierce public hostility to tobacco in our day. And it is another reminder of the necessity to explain why we employ the metaphor of tobacco for the purposes of this publication. We should begin by clarifying what we are not. This is not a Reformed version of Cigar Aficionado

Then why nicotine? First, in order to affirm the social utility of tobacco. As Wendell Berry writes, “Tobacco is fragrant, and smoking at its best is convivial or ceremonious and pleasant.” Smoke and drink are conversation stimulants and together they suggest the relaxed and engaging atmosphere that we want to establish for the arguments and topics you will find here. We also want to suggest that the kind of conversation that accompanies the moderate use of tobacco and alcohol is very important for sustaining us on our pilgrimage this side of glory. It may even be a foretaste of the fellowship we will enjoy when our Lord returns.

Second, tobacco exposes the hypocrisy with which people, including Reformed believers, treat the matter of health and well-being. The anti-tobacco crusade can be a convenient way to overlook the many other distractions of modern life — from sports, to entertainment, money, politics and sex. We have reduced health to mere physical health, but physical health is not man’s chief end. So the modern obsession with physical fitness and material well-being is often unhealthy. In this connection, we can hardly improve on the words of Garrison Keiller (whom we promise not to quote often), “nonsmokers live longer, but they live dumber.”

Third, the cultural antagonism toward tobacco mirrors well the evangelical dismissiveness toward confessional Presbyterianism. Our commitments to things like Sabbath and psalms can’t even gain a hearing in most evangelical quarters. (Raise a question about holidays like Christmas and Advent and evangelicals think you just arrived from Mars.) Like most smokers, confessional Presbyterians are feisty and cantankerous because that is the only way one can take the Reformed confessions seriously in our day. In the light of the ascendency of mass-marketed evangelicalism, it is necessary for confessional Presbyterians to be resistance fighters. Our resistance will often take confrontational, dogmatic and sectarian forms — and we believe in the good senses of those words. But we will endeavor to avoid arrogance and narrow-mindedness. So, for example, along with offering reflections about the value of Sunday evening services, we will also recommend a good blend of Scotch every now and then. And while we have yet to be persuaded of exclusive psalmody, we also remain unconvinced about the virtues of chewing tobacco; nevertheless, we will entertain arguments for both.

Finally, our name sets a tone of lightheartedness that we want to characterize these pages. The NTJ will be occasional and occasionally serious. Along the way we hope to have fun, not least by poking fun at ourselves. Several friends have asked if smoking and drinking are requirements for membership in the Old Life Theological Society. Of course, the answer is no. One can be an Old School Presbyterian in spirit if not Old School in spirits (though there are some things we will expose as irredeemably New School, such as light beer or any alcohol-free pretender). As for smoking, to borrow a phrase from Richard John Neuhaus, we only ask those who refuse to light up that they at least strive to lighten up.

How much is advised?  The Nicotine Theological Journal says:

Smoking two packs a day because you know you’re going to die anyway is not the best response to the blessings of this life (one pack should be sufficient).

So, to clarify, one pack a day to enjoy the blessings of this life. 

Dr R Scott Clark at Heidelblog uncovered a poem by a pipe-smoking Church of Scotland minister, the Revd Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) of Dunfermline:

Part Two: The Gospel
WAS this small plant for thee cut down!
So was the Plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what’s the power
Of Jesse’s flower?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon’s rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
In vain th’ unlighted pipe you blow;
Your pains in outward means are so,
Till heav’nly fire
The heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The smoke, like burning incense, tow’rs;
So should a praying heart of yours,
With ardent cries,
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.


I hope that answers any question Catholics and Calvinists might have about tobacco and sin.  For Methodists and Wesleyans, the answer may vary depending on how the doctrine of perfectionism is interpreted locally.  Having said that, it should be noted that:

Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment.

In closing, recommended are 1 Timothy 4:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 10:31, respectively:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving:  For it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.