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And one unnamed source has pointed out the Supreme Leader even chain-smoked during a visit to an orphanage, suggesting he should be subject to new restrictions before anyone else in the country. The tobacco-prohibition law passed last week by the Supreme People’s Assembly is ostensibly intended to protect public health – but concerns have been raised it could be used to punish people arbitrarily.
Moreover, Kim’s habit has prompted accusations of hypocrisy.
One resident of North Pyongan province, in the country’s northwest, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) website many people were “dumbfounded” by the news.
The insider added: “They say that Kim Jong-un, a known smoker, should be subject to smoking control first.
“According to the tobacco-prohibition law, which is now national policy, the key point is to protect the lives and health of the people.
“But the residents are booing. They say that the Highest Dignity who even chain-smoked while visiting an orphanage in front of the children is the one who violated the law first.”
Many also take a dim view of television footage which frequently shows 36-year-old Kim smoking in front of senior officials who are older than him, something which is generally regarded as highly disrespectful.
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Another source, from South Hamgyong province, on the country’s east coast, explained why people were uneasy at the prospect of the new law.
They said: “Residents are criticising the tobacco-prohibition law, saying that smoking the wrong area could lead to death as a political criminal.”
Many of North Korea’s young people smoke, with a recent WHO report estimated 18.4 percent of North Koreans aged 15 and older are tobacco users.
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Kim Joo-il, a North Korean refugee who lives in the UK, told RFA: “The tobacco culture of society itself, especially among teenagers is serious.
“Since middle and high school students smoke a lot, it seems that North Korea needed to do something about it.”
Harvard University Professor Kee Park, who is a member of the Korean-American Medical Association (KAMA) told RFA: “This legislation seems to be a move to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international agreement established by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Chairman Kim seems to still be smoking. The rate of smoking among residents, meanwhile, seems to have decreased a lot since I went to North Korea 13 years ago.”
In the wake of widespread rumours suggesting Kim was either dead or in a vegetative state after botched heart surgery, state media in May released footage of him visiting a fertiliser factor in Pyongyang.
Journalist Roy Calley chronicled his trips to North Korea as a tourist in his book Look With Your Eyes and Tell The World, likewise said it was common knowledge that Kim was a heavy smoker.
He told Express.co.uk: “The thing is he is not a fit human being whatever way you look at it.
“He clearly has got lots of health issues.”
The clips showed the leader happily puffing away on a cigarette.
While making it clear he was not specifically commenting on Kim, Dr Nick Hopkinson, chairman of Action on Smoking Health (ASH) later told Express.co.uk: “Whoever they are, quitting smoking is one of the best things a person can do to protect their health and the health of those around them.
“Quitting smoking quickly reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes as well as improving lung health and reducing the risk of cancer and serious complications in conditions like diabetes.”
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