Smoking costs too high - and low

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Smoking costs too high - and low

Cigarettes cost the average male smoker in his 40s 6.3 years of life and 1.6 times the medical fees compared to his non-smoking counterpart, a new study has found, and the lead researcher is calling to lower the losses by raising the price of each pack.

According to a report released yesterday by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the socioeconomic costs of cigarettes - including loss of earnings due to premature death from smoking-related health problems - currently reach 5.6 trillion won ($4.8 million) annually.

Of that money, about 3.5 trillion won comes from lost earnings and premature death, and another 1.4 trillion goes to medical fees for smoking-related health problems, the institute said.

The report also pinned the average remaining life expectancy for a 40-year-old male smoker at 36.4 years, while a non-smoker that age is expected to live 42.7 years more.

And it confirmed the benefits of quitting: A 40-year-old male former smoker is expected to live another 41.2 years.

Head researcher Chung Yeong-ho is pushing to raise the price of cigarettes to lower the smoking rates. He wrote that for every 10 percent hike on cigarette prices, there is a 10 percent dip in smoking among younger and lower-income Koreans.

“Of all the anti-smoking campaigns and policies, raising the price is one of the most effective measures,” said Chung. “We need to aggressively review cases in European countries regarding these price hikes.”

In France, after the price of cigarettes climbed by 40 percent from 2003 to 2004, the nationwide smoking rate fell 33.5 percent.

The country also saw the smoking rate fall 6.5 percent for males and 5.8 percent for females from 1993 to 2005, during which time the country raised cigarette prices by an average 5 percent each year.

The average price for a pack of cigarettes in Korea has remained at 2,500 won during the last four years, even while the price index rose from 100 in 2005 to 109.7 in 2008. During those years, average daily earnings for Koreans also rose from 49,205 won in 2005 to 55,475 won in 2008.


By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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