Many Korean smokers went duty-free in 2015

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Many Korean smokers went duty-free in 2015

Cigarette sales from Korea’s duty-free shops soared 43.2 percent in 2015, suggesting that the government’s claims of curbing smoking through a price hike are overstated.

The government announced in January that tobacco sales dropped 23.7 percent in 2015, largely thanks to its hike of tobacco prices from 2,500 won ($2.26) per pack to 4,500 won in January of that year.

Lawmaker Park Young-sun from the main opposition party said Monday the government is exaggerating its success because its figures didn’t include sales at duty-free shops. In Korea, sales at duty-free stores often leak into the local market.

Data compiled by the Korea Customs Service show that the number of cigarette packs sold in Korean duty-free shops last year was 211 million packs, a 43.2 percent year-on-year rise. In dollar terms, sales were $414 million in 2015, a 40.3 percent more than the year before.

The average price of a pack of cigarettes from a duty-free shop, which doesn’t include tax, is 2,436 won.

The overall size of the Korean cigarette market was 3.33 billion packs in 2015, not including duty free sales.

“The government is widely claiming that the price hike for cigarettes last year has been effective,” said Park in a statement released Monday.

“The actual number of cigarette packs sold last year increased by 67 million units when including duty-free sales,” she added.

At duty-free shops, shoppers are allowed to purchase up to two cartons which contain 10 packs each. Before the price hike was implemented, one carton priced an average of $18.

After the implementation, the price jumped to $22.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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