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Government seeks cigarette price hike to lower smoking rate Updated: 2014-06-30 15:59:29 KST

  Government seeks cigarette price hike to lower smoking rate

Just last week, Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare released a shocking anti-smoking advertisement in the hope it would convince smokers to kick their habit.
At a recent symposium held on "World No Tobacco Day", the ministry said it will actively push ahead with the World Health Organization's recommendation to raise cigarette prices to bring down the country's high smoking rate.
In Korea you pay 2,500 won or roughly 2-and-a-half U.S. dollars for a pack of 20 cigarettes.
That's the cheapest out of the 41 OECD nations.
A pack of cigarettes is more than six times more expensive in Norway than it is in Korea.
Medical experts say the relation between the price of tobacco and quitting cannot be ignored.
In fact, 10 years ago, when the price of cigarettes went up by around 50 cents, the smoking rate among men in Korea dropped from 58 percent in 2004 to 44 percent just two years later.
But, there's a reason why the government has failed on a number of occasions to push through with a raise.
There are concerns people in the low-income bracket will be hit hardest, since a cigarette price hike also means a tax hike.
The tax paid on tobacco products is the same for high or low-income people.
Tobacco tax is also paid indirectly, meaning the tax is not collected by the government, but by tobacco companies.
But, as finance minister-nominee Choi Kyung-hwan has said, although there is a perception welfare is placing a higher tax burden on the people, cigarette prices must be raised for the sake of public health.
Last year, Korea's smoking rate was the second highest among OECD members, barely trailing Greece.
Kwon Soa, Arirang News.
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