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The Islamic State (also known as Isis) has made a spectacular U-turn on its Sharia laws in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, stubbing out its draconian cigarette ban in an attempt to boost popularity among the local population of hardcore smokers.
A resident of Hawija, 55 kilometres southwest of Kirkuk, told Almada Press that Isis has lifted the embargo on shops selling cigarettes in the province and its towns.
In June, the jihadists imposed a strict set of Sharia laws barring the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in Nineveh province, just days after capturing the provincial capital Mosul.
Isis explained its opposition to smoking by calling it a "slow suicide" and saying that "every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God".
The Islamist group confiscated and destroyed cigarettes by crushing them under the wheels of Hummers they seized from Iraqi security forces, according to a Hawija resident.
Another Iraqi resident said that Isis fighters confiscated huge amounts of cigarettes and informed shop owners that a fatwa, which is a religious edict, issued by the group banned cigarettes and included whipping anyone who breached the law.
According to Al Arabiya website, the decision came "as an attempt to gain popularity after the group's extremist actions began to appall residents, particularly after security forces, aided by international support, began to attack Isis".
Although smoking is not banned in Islam, some radical Islamist leaders have issued tobacco fatwas prohibiting cigarette and hookah.
The Iraqi government attempted without success to impose a ban on smoking in public places such as schools, universities, government offices and private businesses, including restaurants and cafes.