Jeolla region has lowest rate of smokers, drinkers

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Jeolla region has lowest rate of smokers, drinkers

Yongjeong village in Goheung County, South Jeolla, is a small town consisting of 29 farming households.

On a road into the village stands a large sign saying “Do not smoke once you enter this village.”

The town’s efforts to make the place smoke-free began in September 2008, when 27 adult smokers declared they would give up their habit.

Four months later, the village became a smoke-free zone, which did not last long, as one of the village dwellers could not resist the urge to smoke.

Though the village is not entirely smoke-free now, it takes courage to smoke in public due to the negative perception of smoking.

“As soon as visitors to the village read the sign, no one dares to smoke on the street,” said a 63-year-old town resident named Song Yeong-gap. “The same goes for drinking. At some point, men just stopped drinking, along with smoking.”

The Jeolla region in the southwestern part of the country is found to have the lowest smoking and heavy-drinking rates in the country.

According to a survey by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Jeolla has the second-least number of adult male smokers at 44.4 percent among the 17 metropolitan cities and provinces.

South Jeolla ranked sixth with 45.4 percent. Seoul was found to have the lowest number of smokers at 42.6 percent.

The survey was conducted between September and November last year on 227,700 adults at 253 national health care centers.

When taking into account that major cities tend to have low smoking rates due to their active anti-smoking campaigns and residents’ higher interest in health, the two Jeolla provinces stand at the top for low smoking rates among the country’s other provinces.

For the heavy-drinking category, which is defined as having more than seven shots of soju for men, five for women, twice a week or more, South Jeolla has the lowest rate at 13.5 percent. North Jeolla follows with 13.7 percent, while Seoul sits at 15.8 percent.

Sejong City, a planned administrative city designed to house government facilities, has the highest smoking rate among the 17 cities and provinces at 51.3 percent.

Gangwon, Jeju, North Gyeongsang and Chungcheong follow suit in the unfavorable ranking. Gangwon, where many mining towns are located, and as a result many smoking, hard-working men, ranks second with 49.9 percent.

Some experts say smoking and heavy-drinking rates correlate to the level of women’s social empowerment.

“It is usually the wives’ job to keep their husbands from smoking and drinking. From the study, it seems that women in the Jeolla regions have more effective ways of doing that than in Gangwon and Gyeongsang provinces,” said Park Hye-gyeong, director at the chronic disease control team of the disease control center.

The government data on gender equality backs such claims. According to the gender equality index compiled by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, South Jeolla was found to have ranked at the top for gender equality.


By Shin Sung-sik [jkkang2@joonang.co.kr]

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