Tobacco tax hike favored, poll saysA survey by the JoongAng Ilbo of 1,000 adults nationwide showed 51.9 percent were in favor of the government’s plan to raise tobacco prices by 2,000 won ($1.90), to 4,500 won per pack, on Jan. 1, versus 46 percent who opposed it.
In Korea, male smokers far outnumber their female counterparts, a number that was reflected in the poll. The portion of men who objected to the price hike was higher than that among women. Among male respondents, those for it exceeded those against it by 12.1 percent - 55.4 percent versus 43.3 percent.
Among women, 60.3 percent sided with the rise, against 36.7 percent who objected to it.
The survey was conducted on 1,000 Koreans aged 19 or older from Sept. 16 to 17.
Almost 65 percent of respondents understood the government’s price increase as a move to raise more taxes that will subsequently be assigned to welfare, whereas only 34.2 percent said it was for the sake of improving public health.
However, 7 out of 10 of those in favor of the price hike cited better national health conditions as the reason for their choice, followed by only 14.9 percent citing the increased tobacco prices’ contribution to easing the budget deficit, and 9.8 percent who think cigarettes are too cheap in Korea.
The data illustrates the discrepancy between how Koreans perceive smoking and what they believe the government’s motivation is for raising tobacco prices.
Even if tobacco prices rise, 14.4 percent of survey participants said they thought the smoking rate will not drop.
Concerning the pension system for government workers, 60.9 percent of respondents answered that the system should be overhauled to reduce chronic debt, which would result in recipients getting a smaller share.
The pension scheme for government workers accumulated 12.2 trillion won worth of debt last year.
Respondents who sided with the systematic pension reform were nearly double those who think the government should instead raise the national pension to the same level as the controversial pension for civil servants.
The pension system for public service has long been criticized for the disparity in benefits for retired civil servants compared with those for workers under the national pension scheme.
Likewise, when it came to the government’s disputed plan to increase local taxes, including residence tax and commercial vehicle tax in order to finance social welfare programs, only 26.4 percent of survey participants supported it.
They answered that it would inevitably step up the national welfare system.
Those who opposed it, 72.3 percent, said the tax increase would only add to their tax burden.
Respondents who gave a positive assessment of President Park Geun-hye’s management of state affairs stood at 52.1 percent, compared to 42.1 percent who said they had negative views.
BY KANG IN-SIK, KWON HO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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