Smoking is generally frowned upon in the Old Order Amish church. However, some Amish men do smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The practice is more common among the more conservative Amish groups. Smoking is generally frowned upon by the Amish community, and there is a growing movement to discourage it. Just as smoking has been on the decline among the general population, smoking among the Amish - already relatively rare - has been diminishing.
🚬 Why Some Amish Smoke?
There are a number of reasons why the Amish might smoke. Some Amish men say that they smoke to relieve stress or to relax. Others say that they smoke because it is a social activity that they enjoy with friends and family. There are still some Amish, especially in Pennsylvania and Maryland, that raise tobacco, so the product is seen as sustenance and therefore smoking is more accepted.
Due to vigorous public health outreach Amish are generally aware of the health risks associated with smoking, but they often weigh those risks against the social and psychological benefits of smoking. Some Amish men say that they would like to quit smoking, but they find it difficult to do so.
I stumbled upon a scene Berne, Indiana that illustrated that shows the hold tobacco still has on some Amish - a horse-drawn buggy parked outside of a "smokes" shop on US 27. This is about as close as I was able to get from an awkward vantagepoint in a parking lot across the street.
In my over two decades of visiting Amish settlements all over the USA and Canada I’ve only seen an Amish person smoking once, and that was a young Amish man in Geauga County, Ohio. Seeing a youth smoking almost doesn't count since they aren't often bound by church rules in the same way adults are.
🌎 Where do the Amish Smoke?
Tobacco seems to be a habit that is either very private or very localized to certain Amish communities. One friend of mine attended an Amish wedding in Pennsylvania several years ago and wrote to me afterwards about how “some of the men sat in chairs outside under the trees talking and smoking” after the wedding, behavior that she described as “typical.” Yet I have never seen anything like that. It's one thing to smoke privately, but socially like that is something I've never seen.
There are some Amish in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Kentucky that grow tobacco and in some church districts smoking is permitted. This an interesting study from the National Institutes of Health about Amish smoking patterns in Holmes County, Ohio.
I have also heard of Amish in - this is a surprise - ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish settlements smoking cigars.
By the way, one of the biggest arguments against Amish smoking isn't health impacts (although that surely has contributed to a decline in the habit), but economic. It's simply seen has generally too expensive of a habit to maintain and a frivolous waste of money for the traditionally frugal Amish. Here is an interesting, more indepth, treatment of the topic.
I think Amish women smoking would be even more of a rarity, but, it seems for almost every rule there is an exception, so if anyone has seen an Amish woman with cigarettes, leave a comment below!
⚕️ Other Amish Uses for Tobacco
Some Amish, especially old timers, cite tobacco has having medicinal qualities. Here's an anecdote that was once told to me by an elderly Amish woman:
A friend brought grandmother a salve she had made, which they called "tobacco salve" and it was to be rubbed on the chest only. After using the salve, grandmother got over the flu right away.
Something curative in the salve? A lot of these old-time medicine secrets are disappearing with the old-timers.
🙋 Amish Smoking FAQ
The church formally frowns upon it, but some individuals do smoke and it is more common in some churches than others.
All of these are rarities. We do know that in states where cannabis is legal, some Amish do seek it out for purported health benefits.