South Korea is looking at doubling the cost of cigarettes in a bid to lower the smoking rate, reports the BBC. Under the proposed changes, the price of a packet of cigarettes would go up to 4,500 won (€3.35), the price is currently 2,500 won (€1.87).
South Korea has one of the highest male smoking rates among OECD member countries. About 41% of men smoke, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, this is higher than the 26% average.
The proposal, which would come into effect next year, is designed to lower the overall smoking rate (23%), which is also higher than the OECD average of 21%. The last increase in price was in 2004 when it went up by 500 won and the smoking rate fell 15%, reports Korean news agency Yonhap.
There have been many studies which appear to confirm a link between raising the price of cigarettes and a drop in the smoking rate. Researchers agree that a 10% increase in prices results in a 3-5% reduction in cigarette consumption.
Reports from Yonhap also said tobacco manufacturers would be required to print graphic warnings on packaging, and some types of advertising would be banned. General warnings on packaging were introduced in 1976, with graphic warnings originally introduced in 2007.
The South Korean government hopes the price increase will generate an estimated 2.8 trillion won in tax revenue. The opposition have already called it a “deceitful move” which will impact low-income earners as they smoke more than other population groups.
In April this year South Korea’s health agency launched a lawsuit against three of the largest tobacco manufacturers including the local arm of Philip Morris International, to offset the cost of treating smoking-related illness.