ROME — Pope Francis is ending one of the less healthful perks of life in the Vatican: cheap cigarettes.
Selling discounted tobacco to employees and pensioners, without the increasingly stringent taxes imposed in surrounding Italy, has long been a source of revenue for the tiny Vatican City State. Many people in Rome have bought cigarettes through acquaintances at the Vatican.
But cigarette sales will be banned from next year, a Vatican spokesman announced on Thursday.
“The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people,” the spokesman, Greg Burke, said in a statement, citing World Health Organization figures that smoking causes seven million deaths a year.
The sales had been profitable for the Vatican, he said, but “no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk.”
Cigarettes were sold through duty-free shops reserved for employees and citizens of Vatican City. According to a 2015 book based on leaked Vatican documents, cardinals were entitled to a discount on up to 200 packs a month. The Vatican said employees could purchase a maximum of 50 packs a month.
On Thursday, Francis also approved a step toward sainthood for Pope John Paul I, who died in 1978 only 33 days into his papacy.
John Paul I’s large smile and gentle demeanor endeared him to Catholics around the world. Conspiracy theories have long surrounded his sudden death, which the Vatican attributed to a heart attack.
Francis has approved a decision by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to acknowledge the heroic virtues of John Paul I, the culmination of a process that began in 2002 and the first of three stages in the naming of a new saint.
The next step, beatification, would require a commission within the church to identify a miracle connected to John Paul I’s intercession. Sainthood usually requires that two miracles be identified, something that can take several more years.