The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday that it plans to raise cigarette prices, which have been fixed at 2,300-2,500 won a pack depending on the brand for the past 10 years, as a means of health safety measures.
The announcement came about two weeks after the country received a notice from the World Health Organization that it should raise cigarette prices by 50 percent.
Along with China and Thailand, Korea has the cheapest prices for cigarettes among OCED countries. Meanwhile, it has one of the highest smoking rates. The smoking rate for Korean adult males is 49 percent.
The WHO also advises countries who have signed its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that their tobacco tax should represent at least 70 percent of the retail price. Korea, which has signed the treaty, set its tax for only about 62 percent of retail prices of cigarettes.
“The Finance Ministry also understands why this should happen,” said Im Jong-gyu from the Welfare Ministry.
The ministry said they plan to pass a revised bill by early next year.
WHO predicts that if all countries raise their cigarette prices by 50 percent, some 11 million people could save their lives from smoking-related diseases in the next three years.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)