Rumors have Kim Jong-Il suffering from serious heart disease and complications of diabetes, and recent pictures indicate some significant weight loss. Patients coping with these illnesses usually get advised to avoid cigarette smoke. And when you’re the Dear Leader of the DPRK, you can clear a lot of air:
In most cities, smoking bans are intended to protect the non-smoking majority from the minority who insist on lighting up.
In Pyongyang, the latest and most unlikely international capital to be subject to a ban, it is the other way round.
The ban is to protect one man from the effects of his puffing compatriots, but since that man is the reclusive North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, it is still likely to be vigorously implemented. …
Sang Jong-min, a former South Korean MP and academic who has visited Pyongyang and monitors developments there, says he was told about the ban by a Chinese diplomat. “Kim’s home, office and all other places he goes to have been designated as non-smoking areas. Even the highest-ranking officials are going outdoors to smoke,” he said.
Even though Kim may run the world’s biggest nanny state, smoking has been one of the few vices allowed by leadership to the people. Estimates of smokers in the DPRK run as high as 40%. Servicing those 9 million smokers is one of the only Western companies to invest in Kim’s dictatorship, British American Tobacco, which produces the cigarettes in the DPRK.
Kim himself used to smoke until his health began to fail. Now that he has ended his own habit, he apparently wants everyone else to smoke outside. Will the new push towards respiratory health kill one of the few industries to actually work inside the DPRK? It’s hard to tell, but if Kim presses the ban, at least the starving millions in his country won’t have to endure the horrors of second-hand smoke.