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‘Higher cigarette prices reduce smoking rate’

A study found Monday that higher cigarette prices were the most effective method in discouraging Koreans from smoking, prompting a new round of cigarette price disputes.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the effects of seven non-smoking policies such as raising prices, restricting tobacco ads and designating non-smoking areas, which were taken between 1995 and 2006.

Of the measures, the analysis said, raising prices was much more effective in reducing the smoking rate.

Since the nation’s no-smoking campaign in 1995, the smoking rate of Korean male adults had been decreasing for years. However, the rate began to increase again from 40.9 percent in 2008 to 43.1 percent in 2009.

The figure is well over the nation’s 2010 goal of 30 percent and much higher than the OECD average of 28.4 percent.

The report said that if the cigarette price of 2,500 won per pack had been raised by 1,000 won back in 2007, the smoking rate could have decreased to 33.9 percent by 2010.

If the prices were raised to 8,500 won, the smoking rate would have dropped rapidly to 30.4 percent in 2010 and to 24.6 percent in 2020, the report added.

The nation’s cigarette price per pack has remained the same for five years since it was set at 2,500 won in 2005.

The report pointed out that a lack of strong policy efforts recently has led to the failure in achieving this year’s goal and also predicted the nation’s future smoking rate.

According to the report, if cigarette prices increase annually by 500 won starting this year, the smoking rate of male adults could fall to 35.5 percent within the year and 33.8 percent next year.

The rate would continue to drop to 30.2 percent in 2014, 26 percent in 2019 and 25.3 percent in 2020 when the price per pack becomes 8,000 won, the report said.

“The nation’s nonsmoking campaign is considered to have been successful. Without a further decrease in its smoking rate, however, Korea would face more social and economic burdens and that could affect the nation’s global competitiveness,” the report said.

“The biggest problem is that the cigarette prices in Korea are lower considering the nation’s economic power. The appropriate price, for now, is estimated at more than 6,000 won,” the report added.

By Lee Ji-yoon (