Cardinals allowed to smoke and drink wine

VATICAN CITY - The cardinals locked inside the Sistine Chapel for deep meditation and reflection until they choose a new pope can break off for a smoke or enjoy a glass of wine, the Vatican spokesman said on Wednesday.

Federico Lombardi expressed the hope however that the 115 cardinals -- average age 72 -- who were spending a second day choosing a successor to the retired Benedict XVI would show restraint and not harm their health by chain-smoking.

"I think the cardinals are allowed to smoke where they think appropriate. As long as they follow the normal rules of politeness. We would hope they follow (them)," Lombardi told a press conference.

"We know that some smoke. We would hope that they are doing that reasonably and taking care of their health."

Wine, he said was "a normal part of the menu in Rome".

"So I would expect that it would be on the menu. They are free to drink if they wish."

Cardinals take a solemn oath at the start of conclaves to never reveal the contents of their discussions.

But according to one anecdote that leaked out after the election which chose Pope John Paul I in 1978, one cardinal asked the new pontiff if he could have a cigarette to relieve the tension.

John Paul I thought carefully before replying: "Eminence, you may smoke, just as long as the smoke is white." White smoke is used to signal that a new pope has been elected.

Austrian cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who is taking part this year, revealed before the conclave that the spartan rooms at the cardinals' residence contained "no TV and no minibar". -