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Korean smoking rates still top OECD

January 3, 2011 - Nathan Schwartzman

Yonhap News reports that although smoking rates in Korea fell below 40 percent for the first time ever, smoking rates among men in their 20s and 30s actually increased.

Original Korean article is at this link.

Despite a drop in the adult male smoking rate in our country over the past year, it remains the highest in the OECD, a study has found.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지부) announced on January 2 that it had surveyed 3,000 adult men and women nationwide in December of last year, finding that the overall smoking rate was 39.6 percent, the first time it has been below 40 percent.

That is 3.5 percentage points below the 43.1 percent rate in December of 2009.

The male smoking rate had returned to 43.1 percent in December of 2009 after falling to a then record-low 40.4 percent in June of 2008, then dropped 0.5 percentage points to 42.6 percent in June of last year, showing a year-long trend towards decline.

The smoking rate among men in their 40s dropped 6.6 percentage points, from 50 percent at the mid-point of last year to 43.4 percent, and among men in their 50s it dropped from 41.5 percent to 31.3 percent, a 10.2 percentage point drop, showing a large drop in the male smoking rate.

Also, the smoking rate among adult women at least 19 years of age dropped from 3.9 percent to 2.2 percent, a 1.7 percentage point decline, the study found.

An official with the Ministry said, “with local institutions having created no-smoking areas and an anti-smoking environment, and with increased worries over the health effects of smoking among those in their 40s and 50s, the Ministry has seen increased use of anti-smoking information and consultations and this may have led to the decline in smoking rates.”

However, the current smoking rate among adult men is far off the 30 percent target rate set by the Ministry in 2005 and is the highest among the OECD nations (where the average in 2008 was 27.3%), so some say that anti-smoking efforts over the past five years have been inadequate.

In fact, during that time the smoking rate among men in their 30s went from 48.5 percent to 52.2 percent, a 3.7 percentage point increase, and among men in their 20s it went from 38.2 percent to 40.9 percent, a 2.7 percentage point increase.

Among women at least 29 years of age the rate was 5.8 percent, higher than other age groups.

Asked about which anti-smoking policies were effective, 22.8 percent said no-smoking areas, followed by the 19 percent who said increases in the price of cigarettes, the 17.5 percent who said increased restrictions on smoking and enforcement, and the 16.3 percent who said anti-smoking campaigns and information.

49.3 percent of respondents said that increased cigarette prices helped them to quit, and that the price that helped them quit was 8,055.6 won on average.

The Ministry emphasized the need for new regulations to reach, as soon as possible, the goal of achieving an adult male smoking rate equal to the OECD average.

Lim Jong-gyu, head of health policy in the Ministry, said that “at the provisional meeting of the National Assembly in January of next year, non-price policy-related laws will likely be passed… after the non-price policies are concluded the Assembly will consult us over what to do with cigarette prices.”

There is a similar, shorter article at this link.

Agoda

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