Pope Francis has decided the Vatican will no longer sell cigarettes to its employees due to the health risks posed by smoking.
“The reason is very simple,” spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement. “The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people. According to the World Health Organisation, every year smoking is the cause of more than seven million deaths throughout the world.”
Employees of the Vatican were able to buy up to five cartons of cigarette a month which are considerably cheaper than those sold in Italy which are subject to heavy taxes. It meant that non-smoking Vatican workers are often asked by their friends to buy cigarettes for them.
But the statement made clear: “although the cigarettes sold to employees and pensioners in the Vatican at a reduced price are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk.”
In 1863 Pope Pius IX built a tobacco factory in Rome’s Trastevere neighbourhood and the old Latin inscription including the word “nicotianis” can still be seen. A former school building used to educate the children of workers of the factory which processed nicotine leaves is now the home of the Pontifical Islamic Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Official Catholic teaching does not condemn smoking although the Church’s catechism calls for “reasonable care” of the body and that “the virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine.”
Previous Popes Pius X, Pius XIII and John XXIII all smoked and it was rumoured that Benedict XVI smoked Marlboro reds, although never did so openly.
PICTURE: Jude Law attends the premiere of the HBO and Sky Television series 'The Young Pope' where he plays newly elected Pope Pius XIII, who was known to smoke.