I am a long-time cigarette smoker and have recently become more observant of Judaism. Just as we make blessings over food, is there a blessing to be said when smoking?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The rabbis speak out very strongly against smoking. Since it is so dangerous, it is a violation of the Torah commandment to guard one's health as decreed in Deuteronomy 4:15.
Unfortunately, since smoking is so addictive, for some it is difficult to stop. So while it is clearly forbidden to start, there is a bit more leniency for someone who is already smoking. Though of course all smokers should put in maximum effort to kick the habit.
As for whether to say a blessing, the Mishnah Berurah (210:17) writes: "Regarding those who place tobacco in a pipe and inhale the smoke, Magen Avrahom questions whether this is equivalent to tasting a substance and then spitting it out. The achronim have decided unequivocally not to say a blessing on smoking." The issue is that pleasure for a blessing must be something that is actually consumed, and smoke is not regarded as “consumed.”
It seems also that the fragrance is not considered the pleasure. Aruch HaShulchan (216:4) writes that since the main reason for tobacco is not the fragrance, we do not say a blessing. In fact, the opposite is true; tobacco has a strong and bitter smell. Therefore even if one adds a pleasant fragrance to the tobacco, it is only to cover up the powerful odor – like a bathroom freshener – which one does not say a blessing on.
I once heard someone say facetiously that if any blessing is said, the appropriate text would be "Borei Samei Hamavet" – Who has created potions of death.
Sources: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe – E.H. 4:76) and Rabbi E. Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 9:33)