The Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria has long imposed a strict ban on alcohol, cursing, smoking and other acts deemed haram, or sinful. But it seems smoking may be the vice that's most offensive to ISIS, considering the severed head of an ISIS official that was reportedly found last month in eastern Syria with a cigarette in its mouth. “This is not permissible, Sheikh,” a note attached to the nearby corpse read in Arabic, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
While cigarettes are allowed under Islam, the terror group’s severe interpretation of Sharia law declares smoking as a “slow suicide” and thus forbidden in ISIS-controlled areas. The Islamic State -- formerly known as ISIS or ISIL -- began imposing radical restrictions last year after overtaking large areas in eastern Syria’s Deir Elzur province, which is adjacent to another stronghold and the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa. ISIS imposed the full-face veil for women and banned music as well as the sale of cigarettes and hookah pipes, noting the “financial and health damages” from smoking, according to Al-Monitor.
“Every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying god,” the so-called ISIS Preaching Office reportedly said in a statement last year. “Three days following the issuance of the statement, selling tobacco and shisha will be strictly prohibited and those who insist on selling them will bring injustice upon themselves and upon other people. All tobacco quantities will be burned and the seller will be punished according to Sharia.”
ISIS has burned millions of cigarette packs in Iraq and Syria in order to enforce the smoking ban. The militants have also seized cannabis fields and have posted videos of the marijuana plants doused in gasoline and set ablaze.
Those who violate the smoking ban face a minimum penalty of 40 lashes with a whip. However, the consequences of a repeated offense can be as severe as prison time or even execution. Some find relief across the border in Turkey where they take secret cigarette breaks. Some who have tried to kick the habit have buckled under the strict law, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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“I really struggled with not smoking,” French citizen Flavien Moreau testified before a court in November, after returning from Syria. Moreau was sentenced to seven years in prison on terrorism charges for joining the Islamic State, according to France24. “It was forbidden by the katiba [a group of Islamist militants]. I had brought Nicorette gum with me, but it wasn’t enough. So I left my gun with my [commander] and I left.”