Thank you Jonah!

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Posted by Pam McCown ( on January 13, 2003 at 20:16:57:

In Reply to: Quotations from the Writings posted by Jonah on January 09, 2003 at 18:07:59:

Jonah, you have persuaded me to write the UHJ and ask this pressing question. Here's a draft. Comments welcome! Either on the factual presentation, or on what would be an appropriate form to use.

To the Honorable Secretary, the Universal House of Justice

Dear Sir,

I would like to ask a question of interpretation of Baha'i law which, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been directly answered by any Baha'i authority.

Question: Are Baha'is allowed to use alcohol-based mouthwash?

Background: Many brands of mouthwash contain significant amounts of alcohol (for example 27 % for Listerine, about twice the level for wine). Drinking alcohol is of course forbidden to Baha'is, absent a doctor's prescription. While mouthwashes are intended to be gargled rather than drunk, trace amounts of alcohol are absorbed even while gargling.

(Some alcoholics actually drink these products despite the serious health risk, which is quite apart from the risk posed by the alcohol itself.)

Note that similar trace amounts of alcohol may also be absorbed into the bloodstream when applied to the skin--a practice specifically allowed by Shoghi Effendi even without a doctor's prescription [source]. However, mouthwash--unlike rubbing alcohol--appears to have few if any health benefits, its primary purpose being to freshen the breath.

In related subjects, the Guardian has also stipulated that Baha'is may not consume candies and foods containing alcohol [source], but may use some alcohol flavorings in cooking [source]. The distinction may be that the latter, unlike the former, would not actually possess any alcoholic properties when finally consumed. (The context does not make this point clear.)

I hesitated to approach the House with such a seemingly trivial topic, in comparison with your awesome duty of guiding the world to unity, but was persuaded that it would not be out of place to submit the matter to your guidance. If these more pressing matters prevent you from responding, I will of course quite understand.

With prayers for your ultimate victory,

Sincerely yours,
Pamela McCown

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