Vatican history of tobacco use


John B. Buescher offers an entertaining history of tobacco use in the Vatican.

It turns out that rolled tobacco (cigars and cigarettes) has been especially favoured by recent pontiffs:

  • Pius X took snuff and smoked cigars.
  • Benedict XV did not smoke and did not like others’ smoke.
  • Pius XI smoked an occasional cigar.
  • Pius XII did not smoke.
  • And John XXIII smoked cigarettes.
  • Paul VI was a non-smoker.
  • So was John Paul I, though Vatican officials appeared to hint—just after his sudden, perplexing death—that his final ill health might be due to heavy smoking.
  • John Paul II did not smoke, but
  • Pope Benedict XVI reportedly does (or once did), apparently favouring Marlboros.

Pierre Louys called tobacco  la volupté nouvelle, the only pleasure unknown to the ancients. As the one indulgence in which Rome’s bishops have outdone its emperors, it has a special association with the papal office. Even before cigarettes became popular, the popes found use for snuff…

As a method of brotherly correction:

Benedict XIV was also a snuff-taker. He is said to have once offered his snuffbox to the head of some religious order, who declined to take a pinch of snuff, saying, “Your Holiness, I do not have that vice,” to which the pope replied, “It is not a vice. If it were a vice you would have it.”

As a tool of diplomacy:

When the representative of Victor Emmanuel came to [Pius IX] to submit conditions that the pope believed were unacceptable, the pope “beat on the table with a snuff box, which then broke.” The representative “left so confused he appeared dizzy.” Continue reading

Image: Most Holy Family Monastery

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