In 2014, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released data on the statistics of smokers in South Korea. These figures showed that 36.6% of the male population (OECD, 2014), above the age of 15, reported that they smoked on a daily basis. It is evident to see that tobacco use within South Korean cities was a growing issue, with Korea “rank[ing] 13th in the world… and second among OECD nations” (The Diplomat, 2014) in 2012. Other factors that induce the usage of cigarettes are the mandatory military service (Premack, R. 2016) and as a stress reliever for high demanding jobs and study. With school children studying between 12-14 hours a day (Premack, R. 2016), this is an evident entry to a smoking habit.
The issues surrounding public smoking is the environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) (Kwak et al. 2017). This can be defined as ‘second hand smoke’ and contains a higher concentration of harmful chemicals. This puts young children at risk, due to their still developing airway, making them more vulnerable to smoke related health issues. Upon travelling to South Korea in 2015, specifically Seoul, one of the most remarkable events I witnessed was the introduction of smoking rooms in the streets, these were small glass rooms on the pathway smoggy with cigarette smoke. By having an enclosed area design specifically for smoking, public smoking was allowed. Current challenged with this solution of completely banning smoking in public areas is the disputes between smokers and non-smokers (The Straits Times, 2017). In August 2017, a poll was conducted by the city with over 90 percent of respondents agreeing with completely banning public smoking (The Straits Times, 2017). Those against it are arguing that there are no more places for them to smoke, even within their own private property due to the smoke travelling to other residents. Those who are caught smoking in public can receive a fine of 100,000 won, with shop owners receiving a fine of 5 million won if they allow smoking in their establishment. These fines have been in place since July 2013.
While making nearly the entire city an anti-smoking zone with extreme restrictions and harsh punishments, the decrease in smoking in public areas continues. However, the issues with smoking within the community is being more greatly controlled by other external factors such as the increase in price of cigarettes, anti-smoking campaigns such as graphic boxes and an improved education to smoking. Until these are addressed fully, the health issues surrounding smoking aren’t going to improve drastically.
Premack, R. 2016, ‘South Korea came up with a plan to cut down smoking. The opposite happened’, Washington Post, viewed 29November 2018, <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/29/south-korea-came-up-with-a-plan-to-cut-down-smoking-the-opposite-happened/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.611af6bf45ec>
Daily Smokers, OECD, viewed 29 November 2018, <https://data.oecd.org/healthrisk/daily-smokers.htm>
South Korea seeks near-doubling of cigarette price, BBC, viewed 29 November 2018, <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29154469>
South Korea No Longer a Smoker’s Haven, The Diplomat, viewed 29 November 2018, <https://thediplomat.com/2014/08/south-korea-no-longer-a-smokers-haven/>
Image, n.d, Korea4Expats, viewed 29 November 2018, <https://www.korea4expats.com/article-smoking-bans-korea.html>
Kwak, J., Jeong, H., Chun, S., Bahk, J, H., Park, M., Byung, Y., Lee, J. & Yim, H, W, Effectiveness of government anti-smoking policy on non-smoking youth in Korea: a 4-year trend analysis of national survey data, viewed 29 November 2018, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5577913/>
South Korea goes back to drawing board on plan to completely ban smoking in public, Straits Times, viewed 29 November 2018, <https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/south-korea-goes-back-to-drawing-board-on-plan-to-completely-ban-smoking-in-public>