Holy Smoke! Vatican bans sale of cigarettes to employees on health grounds

9 November 2017, 16:46

Pope Francis has decided to end the sale of cheaper cigarettes to employees and former employees inside the Vatican.

A spokesman for the Pope said he was keen to end the "fringe benefit" of discounted cigarettes on health grounds, with the ban coming into place in 2018.

Cigarettes are about 50 cents (45p) cheaper per packet in Vatican City compared to Italy, due to a lack of sales tax.

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Spokesman Greg Burke said: "It was a kind of fringe benefit because the price was less than if you are buying cigarettes on the street.

"There has been more and more recognition of the harm that tobacco does, and the Pope of course is aware of this as well, and even though it's been a source of revenue for the Vatican, it's more important to do the right thing and protect people's lives."

Inside the Vatican, a packet of cigarettes would cost €3.80 (£3.37), but in the rest of Italy, they cost €4.30 (£3.82).

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Mr Burke did not disclose how much the Vatican was making from the sale of cigarettes, but it is estimated to bring in about €10million (£8.8million).

He said it would be possible to recover the money through other revenue streams, such as the City's museums, and the post office.

It is still possible to buy wine inside the City, which Mr Burke said was less harmful, in moderation, than cigarettes.

Vatican City does not include the 22% sales tax that the rest of Italy has to impose, making the "commercial card" a highly coveted item.

These allow holders to shop at supermarkets, use petrol stations, and buy goods such as flat-screen TVs at a much lower price.

Holders include employees, retirees, residents, diplomats and some members of religious congregations.

Pope Francis only has one lung, as one was removed when he was a teenager, understood to be because of infection.