North Korea’s premium 7.27 brand of cigarettes are being sold at higher prices than well-known foreign brands, a tobacco menu from a bar at a downtown Pyongyang hotel shows, an exceptional example of a domestic product costing more than those imported from overseas.
The cigarette brand, which Kim Jong Un has been photographed smoking by state media numerous times, cost around 17% more than the most expensive Western brands, Marlboro and Parliament, a menu from the Pothonggang Hotel showed in a photo taken this Spring.
Regular visitors to the DPRK confirmed to NK News that 7.27 cigarettes are priced significantly higher than other domestic brands, often at equal or higher prices to premium Western brands, suggesting the premium value of the brand continues to be high.
“It is true that the 7.27 were always the premium North Korean cigarettes and the most expensive, at hotels as well as on the market,” confirmed an informed source that regularly visits the DPRK.
499.80 won, the value listed on the tobacco menu for a packet of 7.27s, is $4.67 at Monday’s official exchange rate, which is more than most premium brands cost in South Korea.
“It’s such a status to be smoking 7.27 in North Korea,” Rowan Beard, a regular visitor to the DPRK in his job as a tour guide for the Young Pioneer Tours company, told NK News.
“Usually, when Koreans are hanging around foreigners, foreigners will offer the Koreans to join them for a cigarette,” he said. “Koreans usually get excited, because they think foreigners will offer them a cigarette from their home country,” he continued.
“When Koreans see that they’re just smoking something local, they’ll often turn it down. But I’ve never seen a 7.27 turned down.”
The brand 7.27 marks the commemoration of July 27, 1953 – the day the Korean War halted upon the signing of an armistice – an anniversary North Korea has since focused on remembering as ‘Victory Day’.
The date is intimately associated with North Korean propaganda and is regularly associated with prestige and pomp, being reserved for the vehicles of only the most high ranking within the world of the DPRK’s car registration plate system.
7.27 cigarettes are produced by the Naegohyang (my homeland) conglomerate, which has this year diversified its product range to produce electronics and sports clothing, Reuters recently reported.
Despite the popularity of the brand and the prevalence of smoking more broadly throughout the country, last Sunday the state-run outlet Arirang-Meari reported that North Korean smokers trying to quit are increasingly turning to new government-produced nicotine patches.
The new nicotine patches were developed by Dr. Pak Yong Hee at the Pyongyang Medical College of Kim Il Sung University, the report said.
Clinical trials have, according to the outlet, shown that smokers who used the nicotine patches quickly lost their desire for cigarettes and could “completely stop smoking after eight weeks of using this quit-smoking product.”
43.9% of North Korean males were smokers in 2014, according to a WHO survey that year.
North Korea joined the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on April 27, 2005, and marks World No Tobacco Day on May 31 every year.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Main picture: Eric Lafforgue
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