[FOUNTAIN]Puff, puff, puff

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[FOUNTAIN]Puff, puff, puff

Imagine this:

"Smokers have disappeared all over the world, except in Japan. Even in that despised, cigarette-underdeveloped country, an anti-smoking movement has begun to gear up at last.

"In the beginning, smokers debated non-smokers in newspapers and magazines. But as time went by, columns supporting smoking disappeared in the media. Finally, cigarette shops were closed down and nonsmoking activists burned down the few shops that dared to open doors in the dead of night. In parks, signboards reading 'No dogs or smokers' were erected.

"Reports that many smokers had been killed by passers-by and policemen in broad daylight began to appear in the media. A few surviving smokers engaged in gun battles against no-smoking activists who had broken into their homes, but their days were limited.

"Finally, the last 20 chain- smokers came together from across Japan and gathered in one apartment. They have been engaged in a war against the Self-Defense Forces, police and no-smoking activists for a week, but almost all of them have been killed in action and the last two smokers escaped from the apartment. They climbed on the roof of the National Diet building and made their last stand, smoking their last cigarettes, in the glare of searchlights from helicopters and live television cameras."

If you are still a smoker, "The Last Smokers," a novel written by Yasutaka Tsutsui, may not seem just a bizarre, humorous fantasy. In Korea, the situation for smokers is also getting worse. A bill banning smoking in the streets was submitted to the National Assembly last month, and earlier this month KBS-TV, the state-owned television network, banned smoking scenes in all dramas. Next week, the SBS-TV network will follow suit.

Around the world, the pressure is on smokers. In Norway, smoking in public places will be banned in 2004. Nikko, a famous tourist city in Japan, is moving to ban smoking in its streets. In Australia, a chain-smoking mother has been ordered by a court not to smoke in front of her son, who objected to the smell.

Now comes the end of a year and the time for New Year's resolutions. As you sneak a smoke at a year-end party, recall the New Year's resolve you made almost 12 months ago to quit, and renew that determination to stop for the entire year ahead.

The writer is a deputy foreign news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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