NATIONAL

Minjoo Party leader slams tax hike on cigarettes

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Jul 27, 2016 - 16:32
  • Updated : Jul 27, 2016 - 17:47
The leader of the main opposition party on Wednesday urged the government to roll back a tax increase on cigarettes, criticizing the measure as a veiled attempt to collect more money by exploiting health concerns.

The Minjoo Party of Korea’s chairman Rep. Kim Chong-in called for the “readjustment” of the taxes on cigarettes, noting that the tax increase appears to be failing in its antismoking aims.

In 2014, The Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to double the tax imposed on packs of cigarettes from 1,550 won ($1.37) to 3,318 won. The Health Minister forecast that the tax increase would reduce the number of smokers by almost 8 percent.

“The government should admit to using tax increases on cigarettes as an excuse to collect more taxes,” Kim said at a party meeting. “If they fail to deliver on a promise, they should readjust the policy. We urge the government to come forward on this issue.”
The Minjoo Party of Korea chief Rep. Kim Chong-in (left) attends a party meeting on Wednesday. Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald
Statistics from market research firm Nielsen Korea showed last Wednesday that the number of cigarettes sold in the first half of this year was about 35.3 billion, a 13.9 percent increase from the same period last year. This was partly due to a low base effect as smokers stockpiled cigarettes before the tax hike came into effect in January 2015. Total sales are still below 2014 levels.

Data from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance showed Friday that 2015 tax revenue from tobacco sales is estimated to reach about 5.9 trillion won ($52 billion), an increase of about 1.5 trillion won from the year before.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)