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Smoking rate in S. Korea down in 2010

The smoking rate in South Korea fell in 2010 from a year earlier, the nation's health ministry said Sunday, but it still maintains a higher-than-average rate compared to other advanced OECD nations.

   According to the survey conducted by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, the smoking rate for people aged 19 or older here reached 39.6 percent last year, down from 43.1 percent a year earlier.

   The figures are based on a survey of 3,000 people across the nation conducted by telephone last month, the ministry said.

   The rate for males in their 40s and 50s sharply decreased by

6.6 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively, from the first half of last year, the report said, indicating their contribution to the overall fall in the smoking rate.

   The number of female smokers inched down 1.7 percentage points from the end of 2009 to 2.2 percent, it said.

   Ministry officials attributed the decline to the government's anti-smoking campaign and growing concern over health among middle-aged people.

   "The smoking rate seems to have dropped as local governments designated smoking areas in a move to create non-smoking environments and as health concerns have risen among smokers in their 40s and 50s," a ministry official said.

   The survey supported such notions, as 22.8 percent of respondents picked expanding non-smoking areas as the most effective anti-smoking policy, followed by 19 percent who said it was the higher price of cigarettes, 17.5 percent who said tougher crackdowns on smoking in public places and 16.3 percent who said anti-smoking ad campaigns.

   But the figure is still above the average smoking rate for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that recorded 27.3 percent in 2008, and falls behind the government's target of a 30 percent level, the officials said.

(Yonhap News)

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