The cigarette price hike in 2015 has been effective in discouraging smoking in low income earners and youths, but not for people with high earnings, a survey said Tuesday.
A public health and nutrition study by the Ministry of Health and Welfare said the smoking rate among the low-income male population fell from 45.9 percent in 2014 to 40.6 percent the following year. It rose slightly to 41.1 percent in 2016.
The government had hiked the price of cigarettes to 4,500 won ($4.03) per pack from 2,500 won starting Jan. 1, 2015, arguing that this would encourage people to give up smoking.
For high income earners, the smoking rate slipped from 38.2 percent in 2014 to 35.9 percent in 2015 but shot back up to 38.5 percent, making the price hike meaningless.
The study was conducted by dividing adult males into four different income levels -- low, lower middle, upper middle and high income earners.
Making cigarettes more expensive had the intended result for youths, according to the study. The smoking rate for middle and high school boys fell from 14 percent in 2014 to 11.9 percent in 2015, and to 9.5 percent in 2016 and 2017.
"There were claims that the cigarette price hike will increase the burden of ordinary people whose smoking rate is comparatively higher," a ministry official said. "The effect of making people quit smoking was definitely clear among people who have less money."
The ministry said the number of people enrolling in programs to quit smoking had almost doubled from 450,000 in 2014 to 870,000 the following year. There were 830,000 enrollees last year. (Yonhap)