Are unhealthy habits sinful?

Is smoking a cigarette or drinking an alcohol beverage sinful? What does the Church say about the use of these drugs?

Gianni called The Patrick Madrid Show to ask about the Church’s teaching on these “recreational drugs”, as he called them. He pointed out that both nicotine and alcohol are addictive and abused by many people around the world.

The answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no. Patrick provided a clear explanation:

“Traditionally, the Church has said that in the Ten Commandments, the Fifth Commandment, thou shalt not kill, it encompasses any sins that fall short of killing a person. But actually harming your health would fall under that category. So the Church says that anything you would do that would directly harm your body would be sinful,” he said.

Is drinking a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail sinful? No. However, Patrick points out that drinking excessively or to the point of drunkenness is always sinful.

“To drink to excess in a way that would harm your body, cirrhosis of the liver or what-have-you, that would fall under the category of the Fifth Commandment, thou shalt not kill; it’s a form of killing yourself. I think even more-so would be smoking, especially now that we have more medical science to tell us what the effects of smoking are,” said Patrick.

There is a difference, however, between someone who has been smoking for decades and is addicted to it and has a hard time breaking that addiction, versus someone who willfully smokes, knowing the detrimental effects smoking has on one’s body and that smoking a cigarette may lead to addiction. Patrick stated that he personally found the latter to be a kind of recklessness that would be sinful.

Bottom line: things that are good for you or even not bad for you are fine in moderation. But if you are abusing something, even a good or benign thing, “you shouldn’t do that. And that would be sinful if you willfully did it, knowing that it could harm or even kill you.”

Listen to more, including the parallels Gianni and Patrick draw between smoking/alcohol and unhealthy eating:

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays at 8-11am CT only on Relevant Radio®.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.