Disturbing graphic warnings contributed to a steady drop in South Korean cigarette sales this year after a steep price hike two years ago largely failed to discourage smoking last year, data showed Monday.
As part of an anti-smoking campaign, South Korea raised the average price of cigarettes by 80 percent from January 1, 2015. As a result, cigarette sales posted a 23.7 percent drop in 2015, but sales rose 9.3 percent on-year last year.
Monthly cigarette sales have been on the decline from December last year when cigarette packages began carrying obligatory graphic images such as a diseased lung, a hole in a throat, and a row of rotten teeth, according to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.
Monthly sales have decreased from 310 million packs in November last year to 290 million in December, 280 million in January and 240 million in February. It remains to be seen whether the drop is temporary but the ministry concluded that health-warning illustrations played a role in reducing cigarette sales.
Graphic warnings have become an international trend. Some 80 countries overseas require cigarette products to have warning illustrations, with 64 percent making it mandatory for the warnings to appear in the upper portion of the packs. South Korea has almost 10 million smokers. Official data showed some 57,000 die every year due to smoking-related diseases.
Lim Chang-won = firstname.lastname@example.org