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South Korea: Aftermath of Cigarette Price Hike

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Korea’s smoking culture is changing drastically due to the Korean government’s recent cigarette price increases. Sales of rolling tobacco, which goes for half the price of cigarettes, are increasing. So called ‘loosies,’ single cigarettes that were popular at small shops in the eighties and nineties, are also making a comeback. More smokers are stepping into smoking clinics with a newfound resolution to quit smoking following the price hike.

Smokers are increasingly buying rolling tobacco since the price of a pack of cigarettes increased to 4,500 won (US$ 4) on January 1. 40 grams of tobacco for hand rolling, from which you can make 80 to 100 cigarettes, sell for 6,000 to 8,000 won (US$ 5.40-7.20). Compared to the price of 200 won (US$ 0.18) for a single cigarette from a pack, hand-rolling tobacco is cheaper by more than 50 percent, although additional costs must be incurred for the purchase of cigarette papers and filters. Most affordable and popular cigarettes brand in the country is Glamour http://www.cigarettesplace.net/glamour

A seller operating a tobacco shop in Yeoksam, Seoul said that the number of customers has increased by two to three fold since the beginning of the year, and the most of the customers were seeking rolling tobacco as an alternative to pricy packs of cigarettes. Industry experts have also said that rolling tobacco, which once dwelled in the shadow of cigarette packs, is now the focus of smokers.

Loosies are usually purchased in low-income areas. A single cigarette usually sells for 300 won (US$ 0.27) which is pricier than a single cigarette from a pack. However, sellers of loosies say that smokers, in their effort to stop smoking, come to buy the singles as a small cheat. Loosies can’t be found at convenient stores, but at kiosks, corner shops and small markets.  Electronic cigarette sales are also on the rise. According to Gmarket, the Korean online retailer, electronic cigarette sales from January 1 to 22 were 17 times larger than that of same period in 2014.

Smoking clinics are also booming since many smokers are determined to quit due to the price hike. A smoking clinic in Nowon-gu, Seoul, whose number of visitors averaged around 150 every month, is now seeing more than 100 visitors a day.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Tobacco News

 

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Smoking Ban Snuffing Out South Korea’s Internet Cafes

Once ubiquitous across South Korea, Internet cafes are quickly disappearing as gamers go mobile amid tightened government regulations, including an indoor smoking ban.

PC bangs — “bang” is Korean for room — have long been haven for computer game junkies. Their popularity exploded with the push to install ultrafast Internet connections nationwide in the 1990s.

The number of PC bangs peaked at 21,547 in 2009, but has declined steadily to 12,500 by the end of last year, according to data from the Korea Creative Content Agency.

In the same period, the mobile game industry has grown fourfold to 1.21 trillion won ($1.2 billion) as the smartphone has become a must-have item for many teenagers, who enjoy chatting on messaging application KakaoTalk and playing Kakao’s games. The nation’s mobile penetration rate has been above 100% for years, meaning there are more active cellphones than people.

“Everything’s going mobile nowadays and Internet cafes have lost much of their glamor. PC bang owners are looking for ways to attract customers by providing more pleasant rooms, but the outlook isn’t that bright,” says Ha Young-soo from the Korea Internet PC Culture Association, a private lobby group for Internet cafes.

Mr Ha said tightened regulations, aimed at improving hygiene at computer-gaming and entertainment establishments, are also putting many PC bang operators out of business.

“Most users of the PC bangs were male adults who wanted to smoke freely while enjoying video games at the same time. But with the ban on smoking, many people quit PC bangs instead of smoking,” he said.

The government prohibited smoking in public places, including restaurants and video-game venues, in December 2012, with a one-year grace period. Starting Jan. 1, a complete ban on smoking in PC bangs took effect, with offending establishments subject to a fine of up to five million won ($4930).

Mr. Ha said other regulatory requirements, such as installing water purifiers and mandatory fire insurance, were also a financial burden for owners of PC bangs, which are basically “mom-and-pop” businesses.

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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Tobacco News

 

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