How is church attendance related to not smoking?

Want to stop smoking? Go to church.

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OK, it might not really be as simple as that, but a newly published survey by Gallup draws a strong correlation between smoking and church attendance. Simply put, the more you attend church, the less likely you are to light up. (Read the survey here.)

And you probably won’t be surprised to know that members of churches that teach it is wrong to smoke have the lowest smoking rates. Mormons are at the top of the list, with only 8 percent of those identifying themselves as members saying they smoke. No. 2 on that list is Jews, with 10 percent smokers. As Gallup notes, some scholars teach that smoking violates rabbinical law. Protestants come in at 20 percent.

More good news for religion — Gallup said its research also connects smoking to poor emotional health, associating it with things such as depression, anger, sadness, worry and stress. On the other hand, being religious has a strong correlation with positive emotional wellbeing.

The folks at Gallup struggle to find a cause-and-effect in all this. Maybe being religious means you overcome these emotional problems and decide to stop smoking. Maybe if you get therapy for emotional problems you want to stop lighting up and start going to church.

It should be obvious that smokers may feel they aren’t welcome inside houses of worship. Or perhaps, as Gallup says, people with addictive personalities are less likely to be religious.

Even accounting for other variables, however (the older you are, the less likely to smoke and more likely to attend church, etc.), Gallup reports the connection between religion and non-smoking is strong.

What researchers do feel certain about is that most smokers would like to quit, so they would like to see more research geared toward understanding the relationship between religion and smoking. People with the tobacco habit report having tried to quit an average of 3.6 times.

Obviously, it’s not just as easy as walking through the doors of a neighborhood church or synagogue. But walking through those doors is probably a good first step.

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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