Smoking on the Rise Amid Coronavirus Lull

  • By Kim Sung-mo

    January 26, 2021 12:22

    Smoking is on the rise in Korea as many people have too much time on their hands in lockdown and few other pleasures to enjoy.

    Cigarette sales from January to September last year totaled 2.75 billion packs, up 5.6 percent on-year. The average amount of money a family of two or more spent on cigarettes each month in the third quarter of last year rose to a record W23,329 (US$1=W1,103).

    More and more people may have turned to smoking to deal with the stress of spending long periods of time at home. But anti-smoking campaigns have also lost steam amid wall-to-wall virus coverage.

    According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the budget for smoking cessation classes fell from W74.9 billion in 2018 to W54.2 billion last year, and the budget for smoking hotlines from W7.4 billion to W3.7 billion. The money the National Health Insurance Service receives from the government for anti-smoking counseling fell from W7.4 billion to W3.7 billion.

    Health workers say it has become even more important to kick the habit since smoking weakens the immune system and the virus can hit those with existing respiratory problems particularly hard.

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