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Cigarette sales in South Korea are expected to fall by 5-6 percent this year, according to a Yonhap News Agency story quoting an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Sales fell by 23 percent, from 4.3 billion packs in 2014 to 3.3 billion packs in 2015, after the government imposed a cigarette-tax increase at the beginning of 2015 that took the prices of cigarettes from 2,500 won to 4,500 won a pack.
Sales increased by nine percent to 3.6 billion packs in 2016 but they are set to fall to 3.4 billion packs this year.
At the same time, the smoking rate for men over 19 years old fell to 39.4 percent in 2015 from 43.1 percent a year earlier, the first drop since 1998, when the smoking rate was first tallied.
The smoking rate among this group rose to 40.7 percent in 2016 but is expected to drop again this year,
“Cigarette sales have declined this year from the previous year as the graphic warning images and the expansion of non-smoking zones have taken effect,” the official was quoted as saying.
The government mandated in 2016 that tobacco companies place graphic warnings on the upper part of cigarette packs and, earlier this year, it said that those warnings should occupy 30 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs.
The graphic warnings must be placed on packs of e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, too.
South Korea has been expanding non-smoking zones in public places for the past few years, but such measures have fallen short of a far-reaching ban.
And the country allows some cigarette advertising, promotions and sponsorships.