by Kevin Coupe

I get a ton of email from MNB readers, but there was one over the weekend that really grabbed my attention. The subject line was this:

BREAKING NEWS: Pope Francis joins CVS in banning cigarette sales

Huh?

I followed the provided link, and found that while CruxNow.com (a website that features “different voices in the Catholic conversation”) did not draw the CVS comparison, the subject line was essentially correct - that Pope Francis has banned the sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican because “the Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people.” (More than seven million people a year around the world, according to the World Health Organization.)

The story goes on to point out that the Vatican made the decision at some financial cost - that the papal state made as much as $11 million a year in profits from cigarettes, in pat because it sold them for a lot less than elsewhere in Italy, where surging taxes have made them a lot more expensive; people would actually go to the Vatican not for religious inspiration, but for cheap smokes.

There may be some cost to internal morale as well. The story notes that Vatican employees could get a further markdown on cigarettes, and that “cardinals also benefitted from the discounted cigarettes, with 500 packs a month set aside for the red hats with a further 20 percent markdown.” (No doubt this gives traditionalists within the church something else to complain about when it comes to the current Pontiff.)

However, the ban on tobacco is not total. The Crux story says that “the sale of large cigars though will continue, the spokesperson continued, since the smoke is not inhaled. The Vatican tobacco stores have a discreet selection of Cuban cigars, marked at 20 percent less than their cost in Italy, making them among the cheapest good-quality cigars in the world.”

In so many ways, this is an Eye-Opener.