May 4, 2016 / 9:27 AM / 2 years ago

North Korea hails anti-smoking progress; leader Kim keeps puffing

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Wednesday a campaign was helping to cut the number of smokers, although its leader Kim Jong Un is frequently seen with a cigarette in hand in photographs in state media.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smokes a cigarette as he gives guidance on the development of Ssuk Islet in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang June 2, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA

The government has cut the total area planted with tobacco “as much as possible” and health warnings are required on cigarette packs, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

“The number of non-smokers is remarkably increasing with each passing day,” KCNA said, adding the number of male smokers was 8 percent lower in 2013 compared with four years earlier.

The news agency made no mention of leader Kim’s habit and the fact that he is frequently seen with a cigarette in hand in public, including at an event where he declared success in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead while standing next to a large object that looked to be a ballistic missile.

Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, was also believed to be a heavy smoker, seen puffing on a cigarette on state media in 2009, a year after he was thought to have suffered a stroke, despite claiming several years earlier to have quit.

The elder Kim died in December 2011 of a heart attack while on a train, the North’s state media said.

Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel

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