S. Korea puts their 'tobacco endgame' plan into action

Alexander Vale, May 21, 2019, 9:12 a.m.


South Korea unveiled its "tobacco endgame" plan that calls for adopting uniform, plain packaging for all cigarettes and more graphic warning labels to push people to quit smoking, the government said Tuesday.

The comprehensive endeavor, reached by the public health policy review committee, aims to lower the smoking rate for men significantly from 38.1 percent in 2017, the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The percentage of male smokers in the country has been falling steadily since 2008 with the government wanting the figure to fall to lower than 29 percent by 2022.

The ministry said indoor smoking areas will be banned, with all products containing nicotine to be classified as tobacco goods and subject to tougher restrictions.

The ministry added that for the time being, an increase of the price of tobacco products is not being considered. The government increased taxes on cigarettes by 2,000 won (US$1.70) per pack on Jan. 1, 2015, raising the price to 4,500 won per pack.

That move did cause some people to give up smoking, but the effect has been waning as the public has become accustomed to the higher prices.

Under the new plan, the National Health Promotion Act will be revised so all cigarette packages will use the same design, making it impossible for tobacco companies to advertise their products with appealing and distinct images and logos. This practice is in use in countries, including Britain, France and Australia.

Seoul will, in addition, move to cover 75 percent of a cigarette pack with warnings and graphic images highlighting the dangers of smoking from 50 percent at present. The proportion of graphic images will be increased to 55 percent of total space from 30 percent now.

The ministry said that from 2025 it will not allow any indoor smoking in public facilities after reducing the number of such spaces gradually over the coming years.

It will, on the other hand, set up designated outdoor smoking areas in 10,000 places to prevent people from smoking on the streets.

Electronic cigarettes, which have been cited for sustaining the number of smokers overall, will also be subject to warning labels on smoke devices, while importers and producers of tobacco will be required to submit detailed information on harmful materials in the goods they handle.

"The latest move is in line with global efforts to get people to stop smoking and to counter the rise of new types of tobacco products that are replacing traditional cigarettes," the ministry said.

The government said the plan requires lawmakers to approve changes to relevant laws, like the health protection and tobacco business acts, in the face of expected opposition from producers.

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