Korea - stricter regulation of the tobacco industry coming..

September 15, 2009 - The tobacco business is likely to face stricter regulations in the near future ― regulated in terms of "public health" and banned from using words like "mild" or "light" on cigarette packs.

According to local media, Rep. Jeon Hae-sook of the main opposition Democratic Party is scheduled to propose a revision bill to the National Health Promotion Act. It focuses on scrapping the Tobacco Business Act, which currently regulates the tobacco business. The revision is aimed at putting it under the full control of the National Health Promotion Act.

Rep. Jeon Hae-sook: "Globally, the concern over people's health is growing. The Tobacco Business Act is against the global trend, in that the tobacco business should be controlled in terms of people's health instead of promoting it as a business to collect taxes. According to the lawmaker, many countries are giving health authorities the power to regulate tobacco business.

The U.S. Senate, for example, recently passed a bill giving full-regulation rights on tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In Korea, however, it is regulated by both the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

Tobacco has been an important tax source for the government. A 2,500-won pack of cigarettes, for example, includes a 1,550 won tax and other surcharges, or non-tax monetary charges, such as surcharges for health promotion and waste disposal.

There were talks of raising the tax on tobacco amid faltering government fiscal health, but it faced severe opposition from smokers and criticism that it is trying to squeeze the working class. When the health authorities get full control of the sector, however, cigarette prices are likely to be raised as the health ministry has continuously supported such a move as a means to discourage people from smoking.

The pharmacist-turned-lawmaker also seeks banning words like "mild" or "light" from use in cigarette names. She explained that these mislead smokers to believe such brands do less harm to their health.

The revision will also sanction graphic pictures illustrating the damage caused by smoking on packs and advertisements.

Reference: Stricter Regulation on Cigarettes Sought by Yoon Ja-young
Staff Reporter, The Korea Times, 9/13/2009.

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