Is Smoking Sinful?

Talk about a loaded question.  It's one about which I've often wondered, being a lifelong Christian and an occasional smoker.

Yes, it's bad for you.  So is eating at McDonald's.  And if done in moderation, it's probably even less bad for you than McDonald's, especially if you're smoking anything other than unfiltered tobacco cigarettes.

Society has certainly demonized it, and as a borderline libertarian (who voted for Obama -- hey, at this point I might as well alienate all of my readers) I tend to come down hard on the other side.  I think secondhand smoke is largely a myth.  I certainly think bars, restaurants and other private businesses should be able to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking on the premises. But that's all politics and personal freedom, and the Church doesn't care much for either.

My good friend Pastor Toby Sumpter recently posted about this issue, and I have to say, it's one of the most thoughtful and balanced perspectives I've ever read on the subject.  He primarily addresses the students of his parish and school, but then broadens his argument to include all of us:
If 9 out of 10 of your elders, pastors, and teachers would frown at it, why do it? Aren't we called to love? And love not only covers multitudes of sins, it looks for ways to die for others. Ordinarily, in our culture, cigarettes are self-serving and the only other people thankful for your indulgence are your friends who also know deep down (or not so deep down) that dad would really not be pleased with this. Is that love?

I'm still not sure what I think.  But it's a pretty compelling argument: Christianity is about sacrificing for others, not doing what we want and forcing them into acceptance.  St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak." (8:9)  Just as interesting is the question of whether it's morally wrong for a non-Christian to smoke for similar reasons -- his own autonomy versus the pain and distress inflicted on those he loves.  Some people quit lifelong habits out of deference to their parents or spouses, and I'd like to think it's not just because the nagging wore them down.

Anyone want to jump in with their two cents?  You thought I'd never ask?