Friday, January 8, 2021

Smoking and Health in North Korea


Each year, at the New Year, many pledge to quit smoking and make plans to take care of their health. However, even when one quits smoking, many times the hands go to the forbidden item because of stress and other temptations. So begins an article in the Nation's Reconciliation Column of  the Catholic Weekly.

In North Korea, there is also a concern for smoking issues. A warning message was posted on the cigarette pack and a smoking cessation campaign was launched, but with little success. It seems that the recent 'Non-Smoking Act' was created to renew their efforts and conduct a major crackdown.
Smoking was banned in public places by enacting the "Non-Smoking Control Act" in 2005, and on December 4, 2020, a reinforced amendment was prepared at the plenary meeting of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly. Public places such as theaters, childcare institutions, educational institutions, medical and health facilities, restaurants, and public transport facilities were designated smoking prohibited places, and penalties were enacted for violations of the smoking order.
In fact, the North is a smoker's paradise. Even in public places, he could see men smoking frequently; there were many types of cigarettes. It is known that there are about 50 brands in the South, compared to 200 in the north.
The writer at one time collected cigarette butts that fell on the floor during the "Kaesong Industrial Complex Environmental Beautification Day" to see how many types of cigarettes in the North were available. He remembers the names: Mt. Geumgang, Cheonji, Red Star, Chollima, Dawn, Hometown, Bees, and Kraben.  
The smoking rate among North Korean men was 54.7% in 2015, which is very high compared to the world average of 48%. On the other hand, according to a 2018 survey, the smoking rate of men in the South was 36.7%, 20 years ago, it was 66.3%.
The topic that always comes to mind when it comes to smoking is 'The Vicious Cycle of Tobacco and Poverty'. In the case of low-income people, investment in health is low, which widens the gap with the health of high-income people.
Differences in health levels and mortality rates can also occur between countries. Smoking can be fatal for people in the North who are undernourished due to food shortages and the like. According to Eugene Bell Foundation, which has been conducting medical aid projects for North Korea, the rate of tuberculosis in the North ranks first in the world. You can feel that vulnerability enough just by looking at the firmness in responding to the recent coronavirus infection-19. He prays that the North, which is in a state of crisis, will amend the 'No Smoking Act' and enforce a strong crackdown.
The reason we should be interested in the health and sanitation efforts in the North is that although there is a human rights aspect, we hope the members in North Korea will become one with the South someday and remain healthy.

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