The government‘s attempt to ban the sales of cigarettes in the duty-free shop of Jeju International Airport faces mounting opposition from smokers, industry sources said.
“The (Finance Ministry’s) move to ban duty-free cigarettes in Jeju International Airport, while leaving out Incheon International Airport, is clearly a sneaky way of raising more tax,” said an official of I Love Smoking, the country’s largest online community of smokers.
Travelers purchase duty free products at a duty free shop in Jeju International Airport. (Yonhap)
The duty-free shops in the Jeju Airport have been a popular source of cigarette purchases among consumers, as a 10-pack bundle costs 22,000 won ($18.50) duty-free, half the 45,000 won in large supermarket chains. I Love Smoking said that curbing the outlets for duty-free cigarettes will drive consumers to ordinary retailers that sell tax-added cigarettes at higher prices.
The duty-free cigarette controversy on Jejudo Island ignited in early December 2015, when duty-free industry sources tipped the Finance Ministry’s plan to the press. Finance Ministry aimed at enhancing public health and stopping smokers from binge shopping of cigarettes, they said.
Although the Finance Ministry said it has not reached decision regarding the matter, the revelation of the plan angered numerous smokers, tourist associations and the Jeju lawmakers of main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.
I Love Smoking stroke back at the idea, saying “If (the ministry) cares so much about public health, it will may well have to ban cigarette sales in other airports too, and oust liquor products in all duty-free shops.”
Since the start of a tobacco tax hike on Jan. 1, 2015, nationals have been allowed to buy one 10-pack bundle of cigarettes in Korean airports.
After the tax hike, tax accounted for about 60 percent of the price of tobacco products, with regional education tax, tobacco consumption tax, compulsory health enhancement and exhaust processing costs and individual consumption tax all levied.
Amid the rising number of Korean travelers to Jejudo Island, the controversy is expected to fuel political tensions. Last year, Jejudo Island welcomed a record-high approximately 13 million national visitors, according to Jeju Tourism Organization data.
By Chung Joo-won (email@example.com