Kim Jong-un 'bans officials from smoking foreign cigarettes' in North Korea

The leader is often pictured smoking during his public appearances

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The Independent Online

Kim Jong-un has reportedly banned his aides and officials from smoking foreign cigarettes in the name of “patriotism”.

The North Korean leader is an avid smoker himself, judging by official pictures, but has insisted that domestic cigarettes are good enough for all loyal members of the Workers’ Party.

A source told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that Kim has declared foreign imports unpatriotic and may attempt to prevent cigarettes coming into the secretive country.

His personal brand of choice has not been confirmed and it was unclear whether the order would prevent the reported manufacture of counterfeit British and American cigarettes.

The leader is often pictured smoking during his public appearances

The US-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea is one of the groups documenting the alleged operation, which is believed to make the government millions of pounds each year.

In February 2004, authorities in Singapore reportedly seized a container of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes that had come from Najin, North Korea, and similar finds have been recorded across Asia.

According to World Health Organisation, more than half of adult men in North Korea smoke tobacco every day but there are no female smokers in the whole country.

Andrei Lankov, writing in the Korea Times, said it is an “absolute taboo”, especially for young and middle-aged women, because it is not deemed feminine or pure.

He wrote: “As one defector put it: 'A North Korean woman must be crazy to take up smoking’. There have been reports about women being sent into exile for their persistence with the smoking habit.”

The reported ban comes as North Koreans stock up on tobacco ahead of a scheduled price increase in January.

Yonhap previously reported that the ruling party planned to crack down on bulk sales, with retailers facing two years in prison and a 50 million won (£35,500) fine.

Other recent bans in North Korea include Choco Pies, similar to Wagon Wheel biscuits, and foreign films and television.