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Village Kicks Smoking Habit En Masse

Posted January. 19, 2007 03:00,   


”I came here to check your blood pressure and say thank you to those who quit smoking” said Song Mi-suk (48) of a local Public Health Center. “We stopped smoking for our own health. We should thank you,” replied Mr. Lee, a village farmer.

There are 27 households (61 residents) in Sangdang village, where villagers have not smoked for the last 6 years. In the village you cannot see anyone light up while taking rest in the farm fields.

As recently as in 2000, males in the village had been smoking for 40-50 years.

Following Park Bong-geun (81) who has broken the habit of over 40 years in 1998, a few people in the village started quitting smoking, prompting an “anti-smoking craze.”

People got rid of their ash trays and set some anti-smoking rules: a 1,000 won fine for getting caught, no free cigarettes, and preventing outsiders visiting the village for weddings or funerals from lighting up.

The anti-smoking drive in the village gained momentum when a habitual smoker Mr. Jang (88) was diagnosed with larynx cancer and lost his voice after having his larynx removed.

The village has become smoking-free in January 2001 when the last holdout Park Hyun-soo (60) finally broke the habit of over 40 years.

“I quit smoking not to be an outcast. Phlegm and cough have stopped. Most of all, I feel good when I wake up in the morning.” said Park.

In 2004, Gangjin County granted 10 million won to the village where there was no smoker for 3 years. The village spent the money on repairing a community warehouse and buying medical appliances for physical treatment in community center.

Village chief Oh Joo-ik said, “People tend not to believe it when we say that we stopped smoking without things like anti-smoking patches or help from the public health center. Now, some villagers even say that we should stop drinking.”

Three villages in Gangjin County tried to make themselves non-smoking areas but failed.

In 2006, Songhyun village, where 20 people tried to stay away from smoking, had no smoker for eight months since last March. However, the efforts came to nothing last November when a villager got caught smoking by a health center worker.