North Korea wants to quit smoking

A bad habit shared by its leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has a deadly new enemy. It is not its neighbor to the South or American imperialism, but a much more banal adversary: cigarettes, chain-smoked by a large part of its population.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 46% of men over 15 are smokers. The WHO, however, indicates that no woman smokes. In any case officially: smoking among women being socially very frowned upon, especially among young people, smokers indulge their vice in private, according to the BBC.

Smoking in North Korea is particularly deadly. According to the Tobacco Atlas, around 71,000 deaths are due to illnesses caused by smoking each year. Almost as many deaths as in France (75,000 per year) when the country has only 25.5 million inhabitants.

Cigarette culture

The authorities therefore decided to prevent the consequences of tobacco consumption and the Supreme People's Assembly adopted a law banning smoking in public places, resulting in sanctions. The government has also planned TV spots that feature women demeaning smokers.

The only obstacle: the leader of the country, who maintains a strong cult of personality, smokes himself like a firefighter. Whether inspecting a missile silo, a school, a children's hospital or the subway, Kim Jong-un is often photographed with a cigarette in his hand.

This bad habit could also partly explain why the young leader of 36 years has undergone a cardiovascular operation this year. His father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung, the country's two previous leaders, both died of heart attacks. Both were smokers.

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