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.
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.