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Health minister nominee won’t raise cigarette prices excessively

Health and Welfare Minister-nominee Rim Che-min indicated Thursday that he will not seek to raise cigarette prices excessively during his term.

In the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing Thursday, Rim said tobacco prices are closely related to everyday lives of ordinary people. Asked by Rep. Jeon Hyun-hui of the Democratic Party how much cigarette prices should be raised to help the no-smoking drive, he replied: “It is true that price hikes are effective but we must take into account its impact on low-income people’s lives and general living costs.”

Rim cited health experts’ suggestions that tobacco price should be increased to 6,000 won ($5.2) a pack from the current average of 2,500 won to decrease smoking rates. “The price is overwhelming for most consumers of modest incomes. This should be reflected in formulating the future cigarette price policies,” he said.

Rim insted expressed support for non-price policies.

“I find non-price policies more feasible. I will push to place warning pictures of lung cancer on packages of cigarette packs to alert people of the health risks. I will also raise overall no-tobacco policies to the international level,” he said.

Meanwhile, in another confirmation hearing, culture minister nominee Choe Kwang-sik said that he will try to increase cultural exchanges with North Korea to cooperate in preserving and developing cultural heritage on the Korean Peninsula.

“I will put forth efforts to boost inter-Korean cultural exchanges so that the two sides can develop the cultural heritage of the South and North as common cultural assets,” Choe said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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