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South Korean men smokers drop below 50 pct

Written by: Staff

SEOUL, Mar 29 (Reuters) The number of South Korean men who smoke has slipped below 50 per cent for the first time, mainly due to health campaigns and higher taxes on cigarettes, a health ministry survey said.

According to a survey conducted by Gallop Korea for the health ministry, the number of South Korean men who smoked was at 49.2 percent in March 2006, which is down from 53.3 per cent a year ago and 79.3 per cent in 1980.

The government increased taxes on cigarettes by 500 won in December 2004 and this helped lead to a gradual decline in smoking, the ministry said yesterday. A pack of cigarettes in South Korea now costs about 2,500 won (2.56 dollars).

The government has also launched campaigns aimed at curbing smoking in recent years, although many South Korean men pick up smoking during mandatory military service and men in suits puffing away in front of office buildings are a common sight in Seoul.

The health ministry has been officially keeping track of smokers since 1980.

''Before 1980, we estimate that the percentage of adult males who smoked was at about 80 per cent,'' Cho Kyung-suk, a health ministry official, said by telephone.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 35 per cent of men in developed countries smoke while about 50 per cent of men in developing countries smoke.

In 2002, the WTO compared smoking rates among adults around the world.

Among the countries that had the highest percentage of male smokers were Kenya at 67 per cent with China and Russia at 64 per cent. Near the bottom were the United States at 26 per cent and Australia at 27 per cent, it said.

The percentage of South Korean women who smoke has remained under 10 per cent since about 1985 and was at 3.3 per cent in March 2006, according to the survey. The World Health Organisation said about 22 per cent of women in developed countries smoke.


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