“The price of cigarettes in Korea is shameful, ranking 34th out of 38 OECD countries. It should be raised to the OECD average level of 8,000 won.”
At a policy forum to commemorate the 36th World No Tobacco Day held by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on the 31st of this month, medical experts agreed that cigarette prices need to be raised to stop smoking.
Although this is a claim by academics, the fact that it was discussed at a forum held by the government has led to reactions that the ‘cigarette price hike’ has become a reality.
The price of a pack of cigarettes in South Korea is currently around 4500 won ($20), which hasn’t increased in eight years despite rising inflation since it was raised from 2500 won to 2000 won on 1 January 2015.
As of 2023, a pack of cigarettes in Australia will cost about 36,000 won, New Zealand about 29,000 won, and the United Kingdom and Ireland about 20,000 won. Canada, Norway, France, Singapore, the United States, and the Netherlands are all over 10,000 won.
Most countries with lower tobacco prices than South Korea have smaller economies, including Kosovo, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Nepal, North Macedonia, Bolivia, Kenya, Colombia, Nigeria, and Vietnam.
Tobacco tax hikes are considered a typical “sin tax” to curb negative social impacts, but they are often met with backlash for being a “tax on the people” in the name of improving public health. South Korea has been particularly resistant to tobacco tax hikes. When the Park Geun-hye administration raised the price from 2,500 won to 4,500 won in 2015, the backlash was significant.
“We need to basically raise the price of cigarettes,” said Cho Hong-joon, a professor at Ulsan University College of Medicine, at the Tobacco Control Forum for a Tobacco-Free Life.
Noting that there has been no increase in cigarette taxes for eight years since 2015, Cho called for the government to raise cigarette prices, saying, “Considering that the growth rate of real per capita national income from 2015 to 2022 was 10.1%, it can be said that the actual price of cigarettes has fallen.” He also mentioned that additional measures such as expanding cigarette warning pictures are needed for tobacco control.
Seo Hong-kwan, director of the National Cancer Centre, has also stated in the media on several occasions that “there is no anti-smoking policy as effective as raising the price of cigarettes.” Seo, who has served as chairman of the Korean Anti-Tobacco Campaign Council since 2010, is a leading “anti-smoking evangelist” who pushed for mandatory cigarette pack warnings메이저놀이터.
“Sixty-six countries around the world have banned tobacco displays (in stores). (More than 90 countries ban tobacco advertising. In Korea, we introduced the cigarette smoking warning pictorial display system in 2016, but the area is only 30 per cent (of the total area of cigarettes),” he said.
“If there were carcinogens in the food we eat, would we eat it? If there were carcinogens in ramen noodles, would we buy it and eat it?” He added, “Tobacco is a carcinogen. It contains 69 types of carcinogens,” and mentioned the need to quit smoking.
The photo shows cigarettes on the shelves of a convenience store. The Seoul Shinmun DB
Ministry of Health and Welfare “Promoting New Regulatory Policies”
Baek Yoo-jin, president of the Korean Anti-Tobacco Society, argued that tobacco advertisements in convenience stores should be restricted. “Even now, new smokers, including teenagers and women, are being produced, and people are dying or suffering from diseases caused by cigarette rolls,” Baek said. “Countries around the world are passing laws one after another to restrict tobacco sales altogether. The time is now to limit tobacco advertising in convenience stores.”
The government promised to do its best to enact a smoke-free policy. “Since the national anti-tobacco policy began with the enactment of the National Health Promotion Act in 1995, (the government) has been implementing anti-tobacco policies in earnest through tobacco taxes and tobacco control in 2004,” said Park Min-soo, vice minister of health and welfare. “As a result of these efforts, the adult male smoking rate, which was over 60 per cent in 2001, has continued to decline, reaching a record low of 31.3 per cent last year. The government will continue to promote new regulatory policies to meet the changed environment and create a tobacco-free daily life.”
“The Ministry of Health and Welfare will continue to take the lead in creating a smoke-free environment and regulating tobacco in our society by spreading awareness that quitting smoking is something that cannot be put off for future generations, not only to protect individual health and the surrounding environment, but also from a global perspective,” said Vice Minister Park Min-soo.