Korea - slight increase in men smoking..

July 24, 2009 - A government survey yesterday showed the smoking rate for male adults has begun to rise in recent months. According to the survey released by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, the male smoking rate was 41.4 percent during the six months of the year, up 0.7 percent from the same period last year.

A particularly high rate of smoking among South Korean men corresponds to high rates of cardiovascular disease.

The number of smokers had been falling since 2005 when the government signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and started to launch non-smoking campaigns.

After toughened measures were taken on smoking, the adult smoking rate steadily decreased from 57.8 percent in 2004 to 52.3 percent in 2005, 44.1 percent in 2006 and 42 percent in 2007. But the figure hovered above the 40 percent range recently and started to increase from the second half of last year.

People's financial pressure caused by the global economic crisis has been suggested as one of the main reasons for the increase. Health officials say, however, the slight increase seems to be driven more by the weakening effect of related policies.

"During the early period of smoking regulations, the smoking rate dropped sharply. But those measures are losing momentum after five years and we plan to overhaul the overall current policies," said a ministry official.

While the rate for female smokers slightly decreased to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent of last year, the nation's average smoking rate was 22.1 percent, up 0.2 percent from last year.

In June, the Health Ministry conducted a phone survey on 3,000 people. According to the survey, 58.7 percent of smoking respondents said they smoked out of habit and 32.5 percent smoked due to stress.

When buying cigarettes, 42.6 percent said they consider the taste and smell first while levels of toxic ingredients and branding were regarded by 30.8 percent and 9.3 percent of smokers, respectively.

The starting age of male smokers was 21.2 while females started smoking at 26.3 years old on average.

More than 70 percent of smokers responded that they had tried to quit smoking to improve their health. All but 10.7 percent attempted to quit smoking for themselves without the help of experts.

Cigarette consumption (2008) various countries.

More - Tobacco in South Korea..

Reference: Smoking rate increases among men by Lee Ji-yoon
(jylee@heraldm.com), The Korea Herald, 7/23/2009.

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