smoking-govt policy

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's policy on smoking is one of the weakest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a government report said Wednesday, calling for a need to raise cigarette prices to cut its smoking rate.

According to the report from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the country ranked 24th out of 25 countries studied in terms of the effectiveness of its anti-smoking policy.

Consequently, the country's smoking rate was the second-highest among 34 OECD member countries in 2009, following only Greece.

The report claimed such a weakness of South Korea's anti-smoking policy came partly from its low cigarette prices, which scored the lowest with 8.62 points on a 1-30 point scale in the study.

Ireland, which was found to have the strongest policy on smoking among the countries studied, scored the highest with 27.64 points on the scale that shows the country's relative tobacco price.

"A large increase of tobacco price is first needed, along with efforts to establish a price system that will lead to a steady rise of prices to cut the country's smoking rate," said Goh Sook-ja, a researcher from the institute.

Seoul is currently moving to nearly double its average price for cigarettes from the current 2,500 won (US$2.28) to 4,500 won per pack.

Goh, however, said the government's anti-smoking campaign must also include non-pricing measures, such as expanding no-smoking zones and a strict ban on advertisements of tobacco products.

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