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South Korea May Raise Cigarette Prices by 80%

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How do you keep cigarettes out of people’s hands? In South Korea, the solution involves hiking the price of smokes by a whopping 80 per cent.

On Thursday the South Korea government announced its plan to dramatically increase cigarette prices in an effort to reduce consumption and the number of medical cases associated with smoking.

Under the proposal, the average price of a package of cigarettes would rise from roughly 2,500 won (about $2.42 USD) to 4,500 won ($4.34 USD).

The plan still needs to be approved by South Korea’s parliament. If it gets that approval, it will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

South Korea’s Health Minister, Moon Hyung-Pyo, says the proposal is an important step towards reducing his country’s remarkable smoking rate. Right now it’s estimated that 44 per cent of all South Korean men smoke on a regular basis.

If the plan passes through parliament, Hyung-Pyo says it could help cut tobacco consumption, which he calls “the biggest threat to national health,” by 34 per cent. The plan could also dramatically increase the state’s income, with tax revenues soaring by 2.8 million won.

This is hardly the first plan South Korea has introduced in an effort to reduce smoking. Like many other nations, South Korea’s government has placed widespread bans on smoking in public places.

It’s not abundantly clear if the plan will pass through South Korea’s parliament. In a country where nearly half of all men smoke, there is an active movement to nix Hyung-Pyo’s plan, which critics have called “a deceitful scheme” that’s more about raising tax revenue through “emptying the pockets” of the poor than protecting the health of South Koreans.

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