South Korea - rate of male smokers probably higher than any other OECD country..

July 7, 2010 -

The rate of male smokers here has fallen over the past six months, but still remains far above any other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member state, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday, July 7th. OECD Member states..

According to a Ministry of Health and Welfare survey of 3,000 adult males and females nationwide in June, the smoking rate for males was 42.6 percent, about a 0.5 percentage point fall from last December. The decrease is the first in two years after it peaked at 43.1 percent last December. Still, it is very high, possibly the highest, among OECD member states, the researchers said, as their average was 28.4 percent in 2007.

The average smoker starts smoking at the age of 21 and becomes a regular puffer within a year. About 61.7 percent said they smoke out of habit, with stress being the second reason. About 59.4 percent of the smokers wanted to quit smoking because of health risks, for the well being of their families, and related reasons. Most expressed wanting to quit within a year.

Most respondents said expanding non-smoking zones was the most effective way to induce people to quit smoking. Raising the price of cigarettes and imposing heavier punishment on smokers at smoking-free zones were other possible incentives.

Those surveyed said the price of a packet of cigarettes would have to soar to an average 8,510 (7.03649 USD). "Smoking is a disease that needs treatment. We will consider raising the cigarette tax as well as other policies to encourage a smoke-free atmosphere," a ministry official said.

The health authorities initially planned to lower the smoking rate to below 30 percent by the end of the year, but researchers said it is quite unlikely since the actual number of people who smoke may be higher than surveyed ― more people might be smokers but they could have lied lied out of embarrassment, they said.

Reference: Smoking rate still way above OECD average by Bae Ji-sook, Staff reporter, Korean Times, 7/7/2010.

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