Cigarette sales bouncing back after price hike

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Cigarette sales bouncing back after price hike

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A 43-year-old man surnamed Cho quit smoking earlier this year when the government almost doubled the price of cigarettes.

In April, he picked up the habit again.

“At first, the spike in cigarette prices by 2,000 won ($1.76) was a burden, but now I’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “Nine out of 10 people around me who decided to quit smoking said they started again.”

It has been more than six months since the government raised cigarette prices from an average 2,000 won to 4,000 won. But as time goes by, the effect of the policy is diminishing.

According to statistics exclusively obtained from the cigarette industry by the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, the number of cigarettes sold at the country’s six major convenience stores’ branches in June stood at approximately 2.88 billion - almost 92 percent of last year’s sales, 3.1 billion.

About half of the cigarettes purchased in Korea are from the six stores’ nationwide branches.

In January, the number of cigarettes sold at the stores recorded 1.8 billion, only 67 percent of that in January 2014.

But in March, cigarette sales started to rebound, surpassing 80 percent of the sales a year earlier.

The figures continued to rise until June.

“In 2004, when cigarette prices rose 500 won, it took about seven months for sales to recover to the level a year earlier,” an employee in the cigarette industry said.

“Sometime around September, we expect the sales to rebound to the levels of previous years.”

Tax revenues from cigarettes rose 880 billion won between January and May year-on-year, helping to support the government’s plans to stimulate the economy.


BY SOHN HAE-YONG [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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