Smoking affects everyone

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Smoking affects everyone

Society has upped its campaign against tobacco sales and smoking. Nine citizens, including former director of the National Medical Center Park Jae-gahb and two smokers diagnosed with lung cancer, have filed a petition with the constitutional court against the cigarette industry for manufacturing, importing and selling tobacco.

The petitioners cited that over 50,000 people are dying from the direct or indirect effects of secondhand smoke because the industry goes on producing and selling cigarettes despite their proven scientific dangers. The Ministry of Health and Welfare earlier said it plans to propose a bill requiring cigarette manufacturers to disclose details on the amount of nicotine and other toxins in cigarettes. The disclosure could help smokers realize the exact dangers from smoking cigarettes.

Both citizens and health authorities are mounting pressure on the industry because of the rising concern over smoking hazards. Smoking has become too dangerous to individuals and public health to be regarded as a private habit.

Reducing smoking can prevent cancer and improve public health. But the smoking ratio among Korean male adults remains at 39 percent, higher than the 28.4 percent average from OECD countries, according to the ministry. The government must set an annual target to reduce the smoking rate and endeavor to meet it. It must declare its antismoking campaign as a national agenda and carry out systematic programs. Various government offices such as the finance minister and education minister should join with the Health Ministry to effect a significant outcome.

The first thing to do is raise public awareness of the hazards of cigarettes. Authorities should require manufacturers to paste strong warnings and photos on the dangers of cigarettes on the packaging. Producers also should stop using the words “soft” and “mild.”

Authorities also should be more eager in supporting smokers to stop. Prices of patches and gum to help smokers to stop should come down through subsidies from health insurance. Nonsmokers should be given various incentives in order to lure more of the population to quit smoking. Local government must increase education centers to help smokers to quit. All school grounds and other public areas should be turned into antismoking zones.

It may be cruel for smokers, but the health of the greater population should be considered.
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