Districts adopt their own policies on smokingFor Korea’s smokers, the New Year came with a 2,000 won ($1.8) price increase per cigarette pack and expanded smoke-free zones in restaurants, cafes, bars and on the streets.
The initiative was part of government efforts to curb the country’s smoking rate, which stands at 48.3 percent, to just 29 percent by 2020.
In a recent survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo, participated in by 700 people who smoked as of Sept. 11, 2014 - the day the government announced the markup for cigarettes - 63.9 percent answered they had either already stopped smoking or plan to quit.
The majority of those respondents, 75.6 percent, cited the price increase as their primary motivation among the multiple answers allowed, followed by health reasons (57.7 percent), recommendations from friends or family (14.2 percent) and expanded no-smoking zones (10.5 percent).
The poll was conducted from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1.
In efforts to contribute to the government’s policy, many district offices in Seoul have also mapped out their own anti-smoking regulations.
In March, Seocho District Office plans to extend its no-smoking footpath near Gangnam Station by 555 meters - from exit No. 8 to the intersection at Woo-seong Apartment Complex - which follows a 2012 decision to ban smoking on Gangnam-daero.
The office, which has a prominent track record of crackdowns on smoking areas, also plans to bolster those efforts this year. In 2013, when 18 officials were recruited to enforce the policy, about 83 percent of all the busts in Seoul were carried out by Seocho authorities.
Nowon District Office in northern Seoul has also vowed to pay 100,000 won in cash to residents who successfully quit smoking for a year, a new policy that was introduced late last year.
The reward is given only once for each person, based on the results of a smoking test organized by the district’s health center.
“Nowon District [Office] is the first [district office] in the country to promise a financial incentive [for quitting smoking] in cash,” said Park Gyeong-ok, a Nowon officer with the anti-smoking policy team.
As of last Friday, 614 Nowon residents had signed up for the program, while 660 did so last month.
The Ministry of Health is currently discussing whether to pitch that policy on a national scale, offering a 50,000 to 100,000 won reward for those who quit.
In addition, Gwanak District Office in southwestern Seoul operates a non-smoking clinic for office workers every Saturday, which attracts 30 to 40 visitors each session, most of whom leave with nicotine patches.
Late last year, Gwangjin District established an outdoor smoking booth called Tayiso in front of Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and Konkuk University Station on subway line No. 2. It attracts about 300 people every hour.
“There were ceaseless complaints about [second-hand] smoking from those two spots,” a Gwangjin District officer said, adding that if the establishments turn out to be effective, the office will install additional booths.
BY KANG KI-HEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]