North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has handed
down an order to intensify a crackdown on smokers in order to improve the
environment and promote North Korea as a “civilized socialist power.” To
enforce the anti-smoking campaign, first time offenders will be issued a fine
or threatened with images of them smoking broadcast on television, Daily NK has
“The campaign began a few days ago,
targeting people who were smoking in public places such as bus stops, subways,
and department stores. It even includes people smoking on the street. Kim Jong
Un’s order was created in order to force Pyongyang residents to behave in a
‘civilized manner’ and to reduce pollution in the capital,” a source in
Pyongyang told Daily NK on June 24.
“As a result of the new measures, MPS agents in Pyongyang have been placed in public places such as zoos and playgrounds to catch smokers and impose a penalty. Patrol cars in the central district of downtown Pyongyang are circling around taking pictures of smokers to threaten them with broadcasting the images on television.”
It is known that Kim Jong Un enjoys smoking. In this picture, he oversees the completion
of an orphanage in Wonsan with a cigarette in hand. Image: Rodong Sinmun
Multiple attempts at non-smoking movements
have been initiated across the generations, but none have been enforced in
full. Many expect the latest iteration to meet with the same fate.
At this stage, an additional source in the capital pointed out,
“even North Korean middle schoolers are taking up the habit of smoking in large
numbers,” and pictures of Kim Jong Un smoking have been published in the state-run
publication, Rodong Sinmun. The images show the leader lighting up in
university classrooms, subway cars, and even in front of his pregnant wife.
“From the early stages of the Kim Jong Un
regime, there have been lectures alerting residents to the adverse health risks
associated with smoking. This anti-smoking movement, with Pyongyang serving as
the model city, has been a fixture in propaganda and state media for quite
some time but has been ineffective in eradicating the behavior. In fact,
frequent depictions in state media of the leadership himself smoking are likely to have produced the opposite effect,” he said.
“Pyongyang residents do recognize that
quitting cigarettes is good for their health and the environment, but they are
eager to see the change start at the top with Kim Jong Un. If the leader is
shown smoking in any upcoming documentary films, it will really become an
object of ridicule.”
Past efforts at anti-smoking campaigns
include Tobacco Control Law in 2005, enacted by the 2005 Presidium of the
Supreme People’s Assembly; however, as similar campaigns preceding it, the law
ultimately failed to produce meaningful change.