Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Cor. :12).
There is room for only one master in every man's life: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matt. 6:24).
The love of money is the master of many men, leading to the ruin of their souls. But the love of money is not the only threat. Paul said he would not be mastered by anything. Anyone or anything could become my master: For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him (2 Pet. 2:19).
One cannot serve Christ acceptably until he first gives himself wholly to the Lord, denying his own will and desires (2 Cor. 8:5; Matt. 16:25). But how can I give myself to the Lord if I've given myself to another master? To be bound to nicotine so as to relinquish “the self” means it is my master.
Sadly, many of us have habits or desires that have more power and influence in our lives than God. If a Christian refuses to pull away from the TV on Super Bowl Sunday to worship God, who is his master? Either he wants to see the game more than he wants to worship, or he wants to put God first, but he allows his desire to watch the game to control him—either way, he is surrendering to himself. Likewise, the smoker who "can't quit" is no longer his or her own master.
Whatever we allow to stand between us and God is sin. The vast majority of nicotine users I've encountered were addicted to the stuff, and could not quit without a disciplined, sustained effort. Many users try to hide their cigs or chew or whatever when they see a brother coming towards them—it seems to me that should be reason enough to quit or at least ask oneself why he feels compelled to hide it.
Furthermore, we must consider those we are trying to teach—To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22). Our society, generally speaking, these days views tobacco use (especially smoking) as a disgusting, offensive habit. Nearly half of all adults smoked in 1955 but that number is down to around 15% today. The Christian who uses nicotine is immediately at a disadvantage because his influence for good is diminished, maybe practically zero. It’s hard to convince people of the freedom found in Christ while blatantly exhibiting bondage to a substance.
We must not only consider unbelieving men, but our brethren as well. Shouldn't every Christian be "an example to them that believe, in speech, in conduct, purity..."? (1 Tim. 4:12) Can I honestly do this while enslaved to nicotine?
The user often retorts, "What about the glutton, the caffeine addict, video games, etc?"
All the same passages apply equally. Someone else's hypothetical addiction doesn't justify an actual addiction to anything.
Be warned that the caffeine analogy was started by tobacco companies after the Surgeon General warned in 1988, "The pharmacologic and behavioral processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” As you can imagine, cocaine and heroin are not drugs the tobacco industry wants to be associated with, so they launched a series of marketing campaigns to convince people nicotine is more akin to chocolate or coffee--more pleasurable than addictive. As one tobacco company's (RJ Reynolds) report shows, they needed to "make more use of caffeine analogies" since “caffeine use is socially accepted — this might enhance social acceptance of nicotine...”
They've enjoyed quite a bit of success with this lie, even (especially?) among Christians eager to cling to their cancer rods and snuff cans. Never mind nicotine is classified as a poison and leaves a similar mark on the brain as cocaine! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! The repetition of a lie doesn’t make it true — but it sure helps it stick!
Every Christian must resolve, "...I will not be brought under the power of any." Rather, "I beat my body, and make it my slave..." (1 Cor. 9:27).
Enslavement is sinful, self-harm is sinful. Here one brother interjects, "If I can't have my smokes or chew then you can't have your fried chicken!" If that's the horse he wants to ride out on, I can't stop him. To the defiled, nothing is pure (Ti. 1:15), all things (including fried chicken) become an excuse for him to continue in sin. Christians should flee from it as they would alcohol or any other mind/mood-altering substances in order to keep sober as commanded (2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:13).
For those enslaved it can be difficult to see—it requires an honest heart to be honest with itself, stamping out the childish quibbles that swell up from pride. One Christian realized he was fulfilling his nicotine craving in the morning before he would pray. This was enough to convince him to quit using it. It seems to me honest men convince themselves what they need to give up to follow Christ without me or anyone else "gettin' in their ear" about it. So to the discerning reader maybe what I've written is unnecessary, and to everyone else it will make no difference. Unbelievers have quit nicotine for lesser reasons than Christians have to quit. Given this and Scripture’s warnings, I don’t see how a Christian could use it with a clear conscience.