Are Cigarettes Intoxicants?
Question: Tobacco smoking releases dopamine in the brain and also opiod which are effects similar to smoking marijuana and the consumption of drugs such as heroin. it was also found that there is something in cigarettes (other than tobacco) which inhibits the enzyme which breaks down dopamine. Therefore, would cigarettes be considered an intoxicant and therefore, prohibited?
Answer: There are studies which show that cigarettes do affect the brain. They stimulate the brain’s production of chemicals called opiods which are known to “play a role in soothing pain, increasing positive emotions, and creating a sense of reward.” They also “affect the flow of another feel-good brain chemical called dopamine.” For more information on the effects that cigarettes have on the brain click here: Smoking Cigarettes Affects Brain Like Heroin.
The question posed has too be looked at in two areas. First, we must define what an intoxicant is and second we must review the jurisprudential positions of the religious authorities regarding cigarettes. The medical definition of an intoxicant is either poison or a drug which excites or stupefies to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished. Although cigarettes affect the brain and induce certain levels of pleasure, it would be hard to argue that they excite “to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished.”
But, this was the medical definition, one must refer to the Islamic definition of an intoxicant for Islamic rulings. In Islamic jurisprudence an intoxicant is defined as: ما یذهب العقل – meaning that which removes the intellect. Once again, although cigarettes affect the brain, it would be hard to argue that this effect reaches a level which could be defined as having one’s intellect removed.
Hence, the mere fact that dopamine, for instance, is released does not cause a drug to become an intoxicant. Dopamine is released in response to pleasurable activities like food or sexual intercourse. One can increase dopamine through natural means, such as diet, exercise, and sleeping correctly. An increase of dopamine would result in an increase in energy and helps heal depression. To learn more: How to Increase Dopamine.
Let us now look at what the maraja’ say about smoking:
Question posed to Sayyid Khamenei: Considering that smoking cigarettees and hookah (argillah) is harmful, is it permissible to do so? He answered by stating that it depends how harmful it is. “If it causes considerable harm to the body, it is not permissible.”
Sayyid Sistani was asked about smoking cigarettes and he responded by stating: “If smoking cigarettes causes substantial harm, even if the harm will occur in the future, and regardless of whether the harm is certain or probable to such an extent that rational people would fear their safety, then it would be impermissible. But, if it does not causes substantial bodily harm then there would be no problem.”
The mukallaf is the one who determines whether smoking cigarettes causes substantial bodily harm.