Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em?

There are few people more despised and reviled in today's culture than the Cigarette Smoker. To the moralist, he is (to paraphrase King James — the monarch, not the translation) loathsome to the eye and hateful to the nose, belching the smoke of the bottomless pit. To the health-conscious, he poisons both himself and those around him before becoming a burden to the state. 

And yet, if you love your Bible, you owe him a debt of gratitude. 


Above: C. S. Lewis, doing his bit for the cause.

Strange as it sounds, in one of the great ironies of modern times, there are just two segments of society that rely on the ready availablilty of super-thin paper: Bible readers and cigarette smokers. And guess which ones are in the majority? Apparently those of us who purchase Bibles really need the cigarette smokers to stick around. As Cambridge's Bob Groser shared with me last month, if it weren't for the demand for cigarette paper, there's a good chance the mills producing Bible paper would go out of business. At the very least, costs would go up substantially. 

"But," I objected, "the paper's not the same, is it?" He answered with an equivocal shrug, as if to say it is, more or less. 

I can imagine this odd fact inspiring a variety of reactions. Zealous anti-smokers will no doubt worry that their Bibles are tainted by the association, and perhaps will be more welcoming of the advent of e-Bibles as a result. A few contrarians might pick up a pack of Marlboros and emulate the example of C. S. Lewis in support of ecclesiastical publishing. For the rest of us, I suppose it's just a reminder of what an interesting and unexpected world we happen to live in. 

19 Comments on “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em?

  1. As someone who used to work in UK prisons I met with many a ‘con’ who knew the value of bible paper to light up with. Thankfully some actually read it too and met with the ‘author’.

  2. And I thought we were only obligated to buy cigarettes to fund government education and health care….

  3. Don’t tell the US government! Likely the same types of politicians who don’t want the Bible taught in school (and who love the school prayer ban) would embrace the accociation as very convenient. Crush the cigarette and damage the Bible industry in one stroke.

  4. As a zealous anti-smoker (I have asthma and Dad died of lung cancer at 30) I now feel the irony. Thanks a lot.
    Maybe someone will print Bible verses on cigarettes. Isn’t there a ‘Spirit’ brand?

  5. Terri,
    There is a brand called American Spirits, but nowadays I’m mostly a pipe smoker because A. It’s cheaper and B. There isn’t anywhere near as large of health risk.

  6. Might be interesting to have a banana-flavored Bible. They were my favorite ZigZags back in the day when I rolled my own, er,… um,… cigarettes.
    Maybe someone could print a scratch & sniff Bible! The pages where pomegranates are mentioned could smell like pomegranates, etc. OK maybe not.

  7. Ed, I’d question the scratch-n-sniff Bible for one key reason: there are a lot more pages featuring livestock than pomegranates. 😉
    That said, there’s probably someone at Zondervan working feverishly on one now.

  8. Suprised I am that we have not seen hemp paper Bibles (running out of trees we are).

  9. Two references come to mind…
    Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 6)
    Smoke filled the temple. (Isaiah 6)

  10. @Bill…That reminds me of the story of a monk who asked his abbot if he could smoke while he prayed. The abbot said, “No. That would be blasphemous.” Then the monk asked the abbot if he could pray while he smoked. The abbot answered, “Of course. That would be edifying.”

  11. Makes me think of a Korean cigarette brand, “This Plus” (yeah makes no sense, I know), that has “Keep the faith, whatever it takes” written across the pack under the company logo.

  12. I’m not a big fan of thin, translucent bible paper anyway. Maybe if more bible publishers use thicker paper, then the cost would decrease and we’ll all enjoy slightly thicker bibles.

  13. Most of today’s Bibles that have a problem with transparency (ghosting, bleedthrough, etc) would be fine if the paper were only 20-50% thicker or 20-50% greater in basis weight. Dan, alas, that’s still cigarette paper category. If all we were left with were bond paper thicknesses, our Bibles would be 3x thicker and heavier.
    Another thing Mark alluded to was that many of the additives we want in our thin paper to increase its opacity (e.g. calcium carbonate) are also desired by smokers because they tend to slow down the burn rate of the paper to more closely match that of the tobacco.

  14. So what you’re saying is that we have to get rid of cigarettes in order to have Bibles where someone over 40 can read what’s on the page he’s looking at, without having to filter (pun intended) out the print from the other side of the page?

  15. No BWW, just the opposite. Us and cigarette smokers have a symbiotic relationship; we both need each other to justify a big enough market for the papermakers to keep making opaque (slow-burning) thin paper. In fact, we’re the bigger parasites; our market is less than that for cigarette paper.
    Can I quantify that? Well, in rough numbers, half the men worldwide smoke, no women do, so that makes about 1G smokers. At about 1/4 pack per day per smoker, that makes ~2k cigarettes per year per smoker or 2T cigarettes smoked per year worldwide. You probably can roll 4 cigarettes per Bible sheet (2 per “page”) in a typical Pitt Minion. With 500 sheets (1000 pages) per Bible, there’s about a billion Bibles’ worth of cigarette paper burned per year.
    I’d say the market for fine Bibles is about 100k per year (throwaway newsprint New Testaments don’t count) so cigarette paper consumption outweighs Bible paper consumption by a factor of about 10,000. Yup, that’s a bunch.
    So when it comes to tobacco lovers vs. bible lovers, we’re like a flea on a dog in terms of who’s helping who.
    Like the man says, smoke ’em if you got ’em.

  16. Hmm. Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, and Spurgeon to name a few bible readers and tobacconeers.

  17. The bible is clear that drunkards will not be allowed into heaven although it does not prohibit drinking. Wine is actually approved and even praised by King David in Psalms 104 “wine to gladden the heart of man”, but one must have self control when it comes to alcohol. Jesus turned water into wine although it was not like today’s drinks with high alcohol levels. The context of our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit has to do with avoiding sexual promiscuity, not cigarettes. Yes it’s bad to smoke, just like its bad to over eat and flood our bodies with enough cholesterol to send us to an early grave but none of these things will send us to hell. God’s grace does not exempt gluttons or smokers from heaven. God is clear on which sins lead to eternal perdition

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