Holy Smoke! Vatican to stop selling cigarettes in its shops


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is saying “Just Say No” to cigarettes.

The Vatican announced Thursday that it would no longer sell cigarettes to employees in its duty free shop and supermarket — giving up an estimated 10 million euros ($11 million) a year in profit.

Francis made the decision because “the Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people,” the Vatican said. A statement cited the World Health Organization, which says smoking causes more than 7 million deaths annually around the globe.

A 2015 book based on leaked Vatican documents, “Avarice,” reported that cigarette sales bring in an estimated 10 million euros a year to the Vatican City State and are the second-most important source of income after tax-free gas sales. The book, however, also reported that the booming tobacco sales were an example of how the Vatican’s tax-free commercial activities were being abused.

With Italy’s VAT sales tax at 22 percent, anyone who can get their hands on a coveted Vatican “commercial card” does so since it gives them access to a world of high-end, tax-free shopping. With it, lucky cardholders can buy their weekly groceries at the Vatican supermarket, fill their tank at the Vatican gas station, get a prescription filled at the Vatican pharmacy, and do their Christmas shopping at the Vatican’s department store — all duty free.

And the pickings are excellent: Cuban cigars, Samsung flat-screen TVs, prestigious wine so sought-after that the Vatican consistently tops the list of highest per-capita wine consumption in the world.

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