Pass the smoking billThe harmful effects of smoking are widely known. Cigarettes can cause a countless number of health problems, including multiple forms of cancer. As a result, quitting smoking is recognized as one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of cancer, enhance people’s health and cut their medical costs. Yet Korean adult males’ smoking rate - a whopping 39 percent - is much higher than the OECD average of 28.4 percent, according to a recent survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The government, however, cannot implement systematic non-smoking policies nor even print an ad highlighting the detrimental effects of smoking on cigarette packs.
In fact, the ministry has been trying to implement the policies since 2003. But a revised bill aimed at promoting public health through anti-smoking ads has been stalled for nine consecutive years due to vehement resistance by a few lawmakers with ties to the tobacco industry. It is particularly deplorable that the 18th National Assembly did not even discuss the bill and caused the bill to be scrapped.
The Health Ministry has announced it will push forward the long-stalled legislation of the bill within this month to pave the way for an advanced smoking culture in our society.
Once the revised bill is passed in the Assembly, smokers will be exposed to gruesome pictures of the physical effects of smoking whenever they take out a cigarette. A total of 23 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil, have been executing such policies, with many others considering following suit.
After the revision is passed, tobacco companies will be obligated to disclose hundreds of harmful ingredients such as carcinogens or other noxious substances on the cover of tobacco packs. Misleading words such as “mild” or “gentle” will also be banned. When all the harmful effects of smoking are laid bare and expressions aimed at luring non-smokers are prohibited, we can probably achieve the desired results.
Only when such a basic direction is supported by the law, other policies - like the government’s attempts to expand non-smoking areas to public places - will further be accelerated. Smoking carries too big a risk to treat it simply as a matter of individual taste. The 19th Assembly must proactively pass the bill unless it wants to exacerbate smoking’s obvious dangers.