June 12, 2015

Raised Cigarette Prices Affect Korean Smokers

Found between the almost-doubled prices of cigarettes and rigorous smoking-related polices, a growing number of smokers are altering their smoking habits by quitting or looking for electronic cigarettes.

The Korean parliament several months ago has concluded to increase retail prices of cigarette packages to around 4,500 won ($4.07), higher from 2,500 won. The strategy was implemented on New Year’s Day, and its effect was speedy and resounding. As of Sunday, shops throughout Korea have begun selling individual cigarettes, a tendency that almost disappeared during the past few decades. Considering that cigarettes cost 300 won a piece and a package of 20 is sold for 4,500 won, it is obviously less expensive to purchase a pack. Nevertheless local store owners claimed much more customers were too ashamed to purchase an entire pack, as they are trying to quit facing the tobacco price increase.

Industry resources explained that tobacco sales on January 1 almost halved in comparison to the similar day last year, with local retail company Lotte Mart apparently experiencing a 49 % decrease in sales. Experts are declaring the radical decrease in sales was to some extent caused by hoarding that was widespread before the price rise; however, the government considers that the decline in sales will probably keep on throughout the year.

The Finance Ministry reported Koreans are supposed to consume about 2.8 billion packages of cigarettes during this year, which is 34 % less than 4.3 billion last year. The government had reported that increasing cigarette prices was a part of its efforts to reduce the country’s smoking rate. After the parliamentary commitment on tobacco prices, the Health Ministry reported last month it was forcing to broaden smoke-free zones and anyone found smoking inside a restaurant would be fined for 100,000 won.

The chain of government steps have made it more complicated to be a smoker in Korea, reported government officials. Based on the Health Ministry, the smoking rate for male adults decreased from 47.1 % in 2004 to 43.9 % in 2005 after the government increased the cigarette prices from 2,000 won per package to 2,500 won. The officials try to eventually decline the adult male smoking rate - which stands at 42.5 % as of 2013 to 29 % by 2020.

By Lora Dowson, Staff Writer
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