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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 June 2006, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
University ban for Korean smokers
North Korean TV slogan from 2004 - "The harm of cigarettes"
North Korea has campaigned for years against smoking
Good exam grades will no longer be the main requirement for students hoping to get a university degree in North Korea.

The government has announced plans to ban students who smoke from higher education, unless they give up.

The communist country has been on an anti-smoking drive for years, led by leader Kim Jong-il, a reformed smoker.

Mr Kim once described smokers as one of the "three main fools of the 21st Century" along with people who were ignorant of music and computers.

"North Korea is briskly proceeding anti-smoking activities, including a measure to strip smokers of their rights to go to university," the country's official media, North Korean Central Agency (KCNA), reported.

Smoking rate fallen

Experts in South Korea say that although there are no accurate statistics, they estimate more than 40% of North Korea's 22 million people are smokers.

According to KCNA, the smoking rate has decreased by about 15% over the last six years.

Quoting Vice Public Health Minister Choe Chang Sik, it says the government's goal is to reduce that to below 30% by 2010.

The United States has accused North Korea of being involved in the production and trafficking of counterfeit cigarettes, a claim which North Korea denies.

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