Why Haredim Start Smoking on Purim at Age 10

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 Why do Haredim people start smoking on Purim at the age of 10

The ynet portal published a large material about the phenomenon of child smoking on Purim among the Haredim.

“The phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox children smoking on Purim is widespread and very old, although there have been efforts to combat it in recent years,” says journalist Israel Cohen, a Vizhnitz Hasid who grew up in Bnei Brak. “Like the vast majority of my friends, I started smoking around sixth grade. In fact, there's even an old joke about the phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox kids smoking.”

What's the joke?

“Why shouldn't an ultra-Orthodox boy bless our lives when he smokes his first a cigarette on Purim?”


“Because the first cigarette is smoked in the toilet, and this is a place where it is forbidden to bless.”

In an atmosphere of "everything is reversed" in an ultra-Orthodox environment – when it is allowed and even desirable to get drunk on Purim, many men dress up as women, and the “Purim rabbi” it is allowed to laugh at yeshiva leaders – many children allow themselves to smoke, and this is considered part of the general atmosphere of fun and general liberation from restraint.

Ultra-Orthodox media consultant Rafi Perlstein argues that among the ultra-Orthodox public, the phenomenon of smoking on Purim is particularly significant in the Hasidic sector: “As a child, I distinctly remember dozens of small children standing inside the synagogue and smoking. It was very noticeable and really common.”

Perlstein, who advises on sector issues at several local governments, explains that the phenomenon has diminished over the years, but is far from gone. “Today, the awareness is much higher – the Ministry of Health, Health Insurance Funds, a number of municipalities in ultra-Orthodox communities and government agencies have done a lot of outreach. So obviously you see it much less today, but it's absolutely a phenomenon that exists, especially among the Hasidim. It's completely normal to see an 11 year old boy with a cigarette and a bottle of whiskey – that's absolutely what happens and exists.”

Yosef Speiser, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, who runs weekly tours of the capital's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods as part of the Israel 2GO travel company he founded, says similar things. “My grandmother lived in the Mea Shearim area, and every week I lead tours and meetings in the ultra-Orthodox areas of the city. As part of the excursions, guests from Israel and abroad get acquainted with many customs, some of them are amazing and fascinating, and some are not at all. When Purim hits, everyone is amazed to see the encouragement or norm when young children, even as young as 7-6 years old, smoke openly and with the encouragement of adults. Hence the shortcut to addiction and the destruction of health.

It should be noted that, despite the popularity of such a phenomenon as smoking among ultra-Orthodox children, the percentage of smokers among ultra-Orthodox adults is much lower than the Israeli average. However, the ultra-Orthodox Institute for Policy Research found that while non-Orthodox Jewish smokers dropped from 24.6% in 2010 to 22% in 2017, ultra-Orthodox smokers increased from 7% to 10.6% in those years.

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