Pope Francis has ordered the Vatican to stop selling cigarettes, believing the Church should not be complicit in something that damages people's health.

The pontiff's spokesperson confirmed that the sale of all cigarettes will come into place in 2018.

The move means employees of the Vatican will no longer be able to enjoy not having to pay taxes for tobacco at the city-state shop.

Vatican employees are allowed to buy five packs of cigarettes a month.

According to Reuters, many Italians ask their non-smoking friends who work in the Vatican to buy cigarettes for them because they cost around one third less in the city-state.

However, the tax-free sale of alcohol in the Vatican will still be allowed by Pope Francis. Large cigars are also expected to continue to be sold for the time being, because the smoke is not inhaled.

Confirming the ban on cigarettes, Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said in a statement: "The reason is very simple. The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people.

"Although the cigarettes sold to employees and pensioners in the Vatican at a reduced price are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk."

Italy is estimated to receive around €12bn (£10.6bn) annually through tobacco taxes and was one of the first countries to tax e-cigarette products.