Smokers are citizens and voters, too
Lately, smokers are enraged over the cigarette price hike. For a pack of cigarette priced at 4,500 won ($4.1), 74 percent of the retail price, or about 3,320 won, are taxes and surcharges.
As a result, cigarettes are the most taxed products. The applied tax rate is higher than the 56 percent on gasoline and 72 percent on beer and distilled liquor.
Now, a smoker who smokes a pack daily pays more than double in taxes per year, from 560,000 won last year to 1.2 million won this year. It is nearly the property tax on a house valued at 900 million won, or about the income tax paid by a worker who makes 47.5 million won a year.
The government is busy keeping a straight face. The cigarette price increase is to expand the annual tax revenue by 2.8 trillion won to 5 trillion won. In contrast, smokers are struggling to keep the habit. From this year, smoking in indoor spaces, including restaurants, is banned; smokers not only pay more for cigarettes but also have a harder time finding a place to smoke.
But it is doubtful whether the government has the administrative competency to control the non-smoking zone violations. The conscientious smokers would seek remote back allies in the cold winter day to consume the “legally traded commodity” as if they have evil influence to the society. But others would just ignore the smoking ban and smoke as they please.
I would like to propose that the smokers should be provided proper spaces to enjoy their habit. Smokers are normal and legal consumers who buy and use legally traded goods. So their right to smoke in a pleasant environment should be guaranteed, and the violation of the smoking ban should be strictly controlled.
Recently, a Seoul district’s decision to install smoking booths is welcomed by both smokers and non-smokers. In Japan and Singapore, the government and local authorities subsidize indoor smoking section or build smoking areas on the streets. I do not oppose the non-smoking policy of the government but would like to point out the appropriateness of the means and priority of things. Smokers are citizens and voters that the government and politicians need to embrace.
Kwon Sang-hyung, CPA from Shinwoo Accounting Corporation
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