The Health Ministry said Tuesday it is planning to ban flavored cigarettes, require plain packaging for tobacco products and increase health warning requirements as part of its measures to curb tobacco consumption.
During a committee meeting for national health promotion policy Tuesday, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said the ministry intends to “root out an environment conducive to smoking” with the regulations.
According to the ministry, the percentage of male adult smokers recorded 38.1 in 2017 – the lowest number to be recorded in the country but fourth-highest among OECD member states.
But adolescent smoking rates have been on the rise in the last two years, from 2016’s 6.3 percent to 2018’s 6.7 percent, the ministry said.
As one measure to deter smoking among teens and young adults, the ministry said it plans to ban adding flavors such as menthol to cigarettes, including electronic cigarettes.
The Health Ministry’s 2017 report revealed that 65 percent of young smokers aged between 13 and 39 smoked flavored tobacco products. It also found that first-time smokers of flavored cigarettes were more likely to continue smoking (69 percent) than those of plain cigarettes (41 percent).
The minister said while aiding smokers to quit is also important, preventing young people from taking up smoking is more effective in reducing overall smoking prevalence, adding that more preventive measures such as anti-smoking education would be undertaken at schools.
To reduce the appeal of tobacco products and inform smokers of health consequences, the health warning images on cigarette packets will be enlarged from 30 percent of the front of the packaging to 55 percent. As per World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the remaining packaging area will be plain-packaged and kept free of advertisements or branding.
Electronic cigarettes will also be required to carry warnings, the ministry added.
The indoor smoking ban will be applied more strictly. To reduce the risk of second-hand smoking, all indoor smoking spaces will be closed by 2025 and instead moved to outdoor areas.
The government’s previous smoking reduction measures include an increase of about 2,000 won ($1.68) in the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes, to 4,500 won, and mandatory graphic health warnings on cigarette packets.
A Health Ministry official told The Korea Herald that the upcoming anti-smoking measures would not include a further cigarette price increase.
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org