Inconsistent on smoking

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Inconsistent on smoking

Quitting smoking has become a fad with the onset of the New Year because of the government’s decision to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes by a whopping 2,000 won ($1.82), execute a complete ban on smoking in restaurants and bars and increase no-smoking areas on the street. Demand for aids to quit smoking is also soaring. But with it comes an unwelcome side-effect: the soaring popularity of electronic cigarettes over normal cigarettes, particularly among juveniles.

The repercussions from cigarette price increases are both good and bad. A survey of 700 smokers by the JoongAng Ilbo found that 64 percent plan to quit or had quit smoking after the government announced that it planned to increase the price. That trend is, of course, highly desirable. The latest research by the American Cancer Society found that a third of U.S. cancer patients died because they smoked. There’s no time like the present to say farewell to Korea’s dubious achievement of being the country with the highest smoking rate among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

However, not everything new is great. Despite a predictable increase in the demand for e-cigarettes - as seen in the six-fold increase in electronic cigarette imports in October and the 11-fold increase in November last year compared to a year earlier - the government sat on its hands, not to mention the lack of coordination between the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, which is in charge of the sale of electronic cigarettes, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of antismoking policy. The Health Ministry on Tuesday made public the hazardous effects of electronic cigarettes - their nicotine content is twice that of normal cigarettes and they can contain carcinogens like formaldehyde - more than a year after it came to those conclusions.

To effectively discourage smoking, the government should have allowed graphic images of its side-effects to be displayed on cigarette packs. That was thwarted by a number of lawmakers with ties to tobacco companies, however. The government also vowed to spend 500 billion won to help smokers quit, but the campaign is being delayed. It also doesn’t do much for smokers who have to puff away in the cold.

The government must stop promising to prepare “comprehensive measures.” It should put gruesome pictures of lung and other cancers on cigarette packs. Electronic cigarettes are a short cut to smoking. The government must prevent our young generation from being addicted to smoking.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 7, Page 30

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