Skip to Navigation

Drinking and Smoking

“Pressure to drink and smoke weighs on girls as well as boys at a young age”

By Fr Joseph Purpura


One of the most requested workshops that I present to both teens and parents concerns drinking, smoking and other drugs. The Orthodox Teen Survey conducted in 1999 revealed that drinking and smoking of cigarettes amongst Orthodox Church going Teens is prevalent. For example Thirty percent of Middle School Girls say they have at least tried smoking cigarettes, as have nearly 28% drank alcohol while out with their friends in the previous year. Similar numbers appear for Middle School Males and the numbers increase as teens hit their High School Years.

School Years

Smoked Cigarettes

Drank Alcohol out with my friends in the previous 12 months

OrthodoxMiddle SchoolFemales



OrthodoxMiddle SchoolMales



OrthodoxHigh SchoolFemales



OrthodoxHigh SchoolMales



Aside from the immediate health risks involved in these actions, as well as the fact that these actions are illegal, we know from this and other studies that cigarettes and alcohol are gateway drugs that can and often do lead to other drugs and other serious risk taking behaviors amongst teens. Those who smoke and or drink alcohol are more likely to also engage in pre-marital sexual relations (heterosexual and homosexual), more likely to struggle in school and have difficulty in their relations with their parents.


As Orthodox Christians, we need to take these behaviors seriously and to better educate our young people as to the sacredness of their bodies. Through our teaching and our own behaviors, we want our young people to know that as Christians they expected to care for and nurture the gift of their body that God has given them. We want them to do this so they can live a fuller human life and be better able to glorify God and live the life that God has enabled us to live.


A recent Study conduct by the National Institutes for Health, conducted amongst 4,200 Middle School Teens concerning drinking and alcohol abuse clearly show that peer pressure greatly influences whether teens participate or not in these behaviors. The study concluded that, “the single most important factor is the behavior of their five closest friends (even more so for girls than boys according to the study), he says. In step with other recent studies, Simons-Morton also found that parents involved in their children’s lives — engaging in regular conversations, attending after-school events, listening to their problems — were less likely to have children who drink or smoke.” (Pressure to drink and smoke weighs on girls at a young age - USA Today reported on January 24, 2001 p. 8D)


Parents, Pastors and Youth Workers are encourage to talk and listen more often to young people concerning the issues confronting them. Teens who want to make good choices in their life style, should review the friends with whom they spend their time. Additionally teens will want to consider one of the most revealing outcomes of the Orthodox Teen Survey, shown in part in the table below. — Teens who read the Bible on a daily and/or weekly basis were significantly more successful in making good decisions in comparison to peers who did not read the Bible on a frequent basis.

Read the Bible at least

Drank alcohol with Friends in the past 12 months

Smoked Cigarettes in the last month

Smoked Marijuana

Had Premarital Sex

Dissatisfied with life

Attend Church at least once a week















Less than weekly










In a step to better inform the faithful of Church Teachings concerning Social Issues, the Orthodox Church of Russia, issued an easily understood statement. This statement in its totality is on the web at under “Social Issues”.

As an example of this statement the section concerning alcohol abuse is printed below:



An excerpt from:



XI. 6. The Bible says that «wine maketh glad the heart of man» (Ps. 104:15) and «it is good... if it be drunk moderately» (Sir. 31:27). But we repeatedly find both in Holy Scriptures and the writings of the holy fathers the strong denunciation of the vice of drinking, which, beginning unnoticeably, leads to many other ruinous sins. Very often drinking causes the disintegration of family, bringing enormous suffering to both the victim of this sinful infirmity and his relatives, especially children.

«Drinking is animosity against God¼Drinking is a voluntarily courted devil¼Drinking drives the Holy Spirit away», St. Basil the Great writes. «Drinking is the root of all evils¼The drunkard is a living corpse¼Drinking in itself can serve as punishment, filling as it is the soul with confusion, filling the mind with darkness, making a drunk prisoner, subjecting one to innumerable diseases, internal and external¼Drinking is a many-sided and many-headed beast¼Here it gives rise to fornication, there to anger, here to the dullness of the mind and the heart, there to impure love¼Nobody obeys the ill will of the devil as faithfully as a drunkard does», St. John Chrysostom exhorted. «A drunk man is capable of every evil and prone to every temptation¼Drinking renders its adherent incapable of any task», St. Tikhon Zadonsky testifies.

Even more destructive is ever increasing drug-addiction – the passion that makes a person enslaved by it extremely vulnerable to the impact of dark forces. With every year this terrible infirmity engulfs more and more people, taking away great many a life. The fact that the most liable to it are young people makes it a special threat to society. The selfish interests of the drug business help to promote, especially among youth, the development of a special «drug» pseudo-culture. It imposes on immature people the stereotypes of behavior in which the use of drugs is seen as a «normal» and even indispensable attribute of relations.

The principal reason for the desire of many of our contemporaries to escape into a realm of alcoholic or narcotic illusions is spiritual emptiness, loss of the meaning of life and blurred moral guiding lines. Drug-addiction and alcoholism point to the spiritual disease that has affected not only the individual, but also society as a whole. This is a retribution for the ideology of consumerism, for the cult of material prosperity, for the lack of spirituality and the loss of authentic ideals. In her pastoral compassion for the victims of alcoholism and drug-addiction, the Church offers them spiritual support in overcoming the vice. Without denying the need of medical aid to be given at the critical stages of drug-addiction, the Church pays special attention to the prevention and rehabilitation, which are the most effective when those suffering participate consciously in the Eucharistic and communal life.

Taken from the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church

Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church,

August 13-16, 2000

Copyright (c) 2000 Communication service

of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate

Adress: 22, Danilovsky val, Danilov monastery DECR, 113191 Moscow, Russia



Fr Joseph Purpura’s Note:


In August 2000, the Orthodox Christian Church of Russia released an important document (approximately 60 pages in length) dealing with current social issues. Parents, educators and teens ought to read this document in its entirety. Many of our young people and parents may be unfamiliar with the Church’s teaching on these issues and they are encouraged to read this document to familiarize them with the Church’s teaching.

The full text of this document is on the Youth section of the Archdiocese Web Site and listed under social issues:

Youth Workers and other Christian Educators are encouraged to discuss these issues with our young people, encouraging them to understand the Church’s teaching on these vital issues.