A ban on buying cigarettes?

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A ban on buying cigarettes?

KANG KI-HEON
The author is an industry 1 team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


The difficulty of quitting smoking can be explained with toxicology. It takes only seven to ten seconds for nicotine inhaled as a gas form in cigarette smoke reaches the brain.

The lung is made of 300 to 500 million alveoli, and nicotine is absorbed into the human body through the grape-like shaped pulmonary alveoli. Absorbed nicotine travels with the flow of blood into the brain.

Nicotine causes overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones. Smokers immediately feel the effects after inhaling cigarette smoke because of countless alveoli.

By chewing nicotine gum or eating nicotine candy, which are alternatives to smoking cigarettes, nicotine is absorbed through the oral mucosa. Absorption is not as immediately effective as smoking, and less nicotine reaches the brain.

Without the immediate effect of smoking cigarette, the user is less satisfied. No matter how alternatives become advanced, they cannot be on par with the reaction of inhaling gas through pulmonary alveoli.

The half-life of nicotine is another factor that makes quitting smoking so hard. Absorbed nicotine is reduced by half in an hour or two. After the half-life, smokers desperately want a cigarette. The American Heart Association defines nicotine addiction “the hardest addiction to shake off in history.”

As quitting smoking is so hard, there are global efforts in response. Starting with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, governments around the world have implemented strong cigarette control policies. Notable examples are the policy to decrease the purchasing power of smokers by raising tax on cigarettes (Article 6) and the designation of no-smoking areas to protect non-smokers from cigarette smokes (Article 8).

Korea also adopted and implemented FCTC. The smoking rate in Korean adults has fallen from 27.8 percent in 2008 to 21.5 percent in 2019. But some say that the declining trend has hit a plateau recently.

Meanwhile, a stronger tobacco control policy beyond FCTC emerged. The New Zealand government announced that it is preparing a bill next year that bans people born after 2008 from buying cigarettes even when they turn adults.

Dr. Ayesha Verrall, Associate Minister of Health in New Zealand, explained that it would keep young people from starting to smoke. Smokers advise that they don’t quit smoking but they suppress the urge to smoke.

I hope New Zealand’s cigarette purchase ban will succeed.
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