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Korea unveils plans to raise healthy life expectancy by 2030

Tax hike for cigarettes and liquors floated as one way to increase healthy life expectancy to 73.3 years

(123rf)
(123rf)
South Korea has unveiled plans to promote healthy lifestyles in order to help extend one’s period of prime health by three years, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.

The ministry said it has earmarked a 2.5 trillion-won budget to carry out a comprehensive blueprint to promote public health, which will be implemented from this year through 2030.

Korea’s life expectancy recorded 82.7 years in 2018, exceeding the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s average years of 80.7. However, when it comes to its “healthy life years” -- the expected years of life spent in good health from birth -- the number then drops by 12 years, ending at 70.4.

The goal is to extend the healthy life years from 70.4 in 2018 to 73.3 by 2030.

The government has pointed to smoking and binge drinking, especially among Korean males, as two of the main culprits in shaving off one’s healthy life years. The nation’s suicide rate also remains one of the highest among OECD countries.

In response, the government plans to raise the price of cigarettes to be on par with OECD countries’ average, within the next 10 years.

Currently, the price of cigarettes in Korea per pack is around 4,500 won ($4.03), while the World Health Organization announced that the OECD average is 8,137 won ($7.36).

The government has proposed a goal to reduce the smoking rate of men and women from 36.7 and 7.5 percent as of 2018, to 25 and 4 percent in 2030, respectively.

Meanwhile, authorities also plan to tackle the nation’s binge drinking culture. One possible measure under consideration is making consumers pay for an additional health tax when buying alcoholic beverages. Medical experts and health-related organizations have continuously demanded for this policy, but it has yet to be implemented.

“We will look at cases overseas on how to impose health taxes on alcoholic drinks, and examine how they can be utilized in Korea,” said Lee Seu-ran, director of the Health Policy Bureau at the Ministry of Health and Welfare. “However, plans to implement health tax policies for liquors are not yet concrete as of this point.” Lee added.

In addition, the government will push for stricter guidelines on liquor advertisements, by widening the scope of content and materials being monitored. New guidelines have put internet platforms such as YouTube and other live-streaming broadcasting services under close watch. These media channels are now restricted from promoting liquor ads from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The ultimate aim is to cut down the percentage of men and women with high alcohol consumption levels from 20.8 and 8.4 percent respectively, to 17.8 and 7.3 percent, by 2030.

The government also made plans to reduce the number of suicide deaths from 26.6 per 100,000 people in 2018, to 17, by 2030.

To this end, it will promote suicide prevention policies and strengthen support for better counseling and treatment.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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