According to a report by the South Korean Daily TV News on December 11th, the Korea Association for Smoking Cessation bluntly stated that cigarette prices in South Korea should be increased.
Experts also argue that such measures should be focused on improving public health rather than simply increasing tax revenue. This policy is advocated by the Korean Society for Smoking Cessation, as stated during an academic conference on the status and prospects of tobacco pricing policies held at Seoul National University’s School of Nursing.
Professor Cho Hong Joon from the Department of Family Medicine at Ulsan University, and former president of the Korean Society on Smoking Cessation, has stated that it is expected the government will raise cigarette prices both before and after the upcoming election. He further mentioned that this is the simplest way to address the significant shortfall in national tax revenue, however, the current proposal to raise prices is likely to face substantial opposition.
On the other hand, the share of heated tobacco e-cigarettes in the market has increased from 2.2% in 2017 to 16.5% in the first half of 2022. This has led to a growth of 1.1% in cigarette sales revenue over the past three years (from 2020 to 2022). However, the tax burden has decreased from 12 trillion Korean won to 11.8 trillion Korean won.
The price of cigarettes in South Korea is 4,500 Korean won, which is only 63% of the average level for the entire Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Compared to Australia, it is 7 times lower, compared to New Zealand it is 6 times lower, and compared to the UK it is over 4 times lower. Therefore, the price of cigarettes in South Korea remains at a reasonable level and still has room for increase.
The views presented by the Korean Society for Tobacco Control indicate that there is considerable attention from the national assembly towards tobacco pricing policies. It is expected that a movement to increase tobacco prices will be fully launched next year.