Cigarette sales have dropped for three consecutive months, likely linked to the government’s move to put graphic warnings on cigarette packs, according to data Monday.
South Koreans purchased some 240 million cigarette packs on the domestic market in February, seeing a 22.6 percent fall from 310 million packs in November 2016, according to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.
Sales amounted to 290 million packs in December and 280 million cigarette packs in January this year.
The gradual slide in sales came as the government began to dictate that cigarette packs sold in Korea carry graphic warnings about 10 adverse effects on human health, including cancers, heart disease and erectile dysfunction, starting Dec. 23, 2016.
According to the plan, one of 10 disturbing photos must be placed on the upper part of a cigarette pack and cover at least 30 percent of the entire display, along with a hotline that directs a caller to a tobacco rehabilitation center run by the National Cancer Center.
The number of those visiting cigarette rehabilitation center has almost doubled in the last three months. Some 26,000 people were estimated to have been registered in a rehabilitation program at state-run health facilities as of December, while the number soared to 51,000 in January.
“Since the graphic warnings started to appear on cigarette packs, more and more people are likely to quit smoking,” the ministry said. “We expect another drop in the number of smokers next month.”
The smoking rate in Korea has continued to drop, especially since the hike in price by 2,000 won ($1.70) per cigarette pack in January 2016. The rate of men smoking cigarettes slid to 39.3 percent in 2015, according to data in 2016, marking the first time it had fallen below 40 percent.
The ministry announced in 2015 that it aimed to lower the smoking rate among South Korean men to 29 percent by 2020.
By Son Ji-hyoung (firstname.lastname@example.org)