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[Opinion] Cigarette Tax

Posted June. 03, 2001 08:19,   


The slogan of the WHO`s antismoking campaign is ``Second-hand smoke kills. Let’s clear the air.`` According to the WHO`s report, when smoking, thousands of chemical materials are rapidly synthesized, including many hazardous materials that cause the lung cancer or damage the lung and the bronchus. Smokers might complain that WHO defines the indoor smoking as a murder. However, WHO believes that the indoor smoking is an act of the chronic process of killing, compared to the acute murdering by the guns.

Even though the smoking is injurious to one`s health, the right of the smokers to enjoy the tastes and the mood of smoking has to be respected. Some nations leave even drugs, which is more dangerous than tobacco, on the decision of individuals. The government, industries, and the smokers have to consider the exposed danger of the non-smokers, who do not choose to smoke. WHO has campaigned for this urgent task for the health of human beings, that is, the banning of the indoor smoking to protect the non-smokers, who spend most of his or her working hours in a closed space, from the second-hand smoke.

It is reported that the government considers to increase the share for the health improvement per pack of cigarette from currently 2 won to 100 won to stabilize the health insurance budget. The tobacco consumers criticize that the government attributes its responsibility, that is, the financial crisis of the health insurance caused by the unprepared enforcement of the pharmacy-clinic separation, to the smokers. For a pack of cigarette, various tobacco taxes are already imposed, including the consumption tax (510 won), the local education tax (255), the value added tax (10 percent), the waste share ( 4 won), and so on. In addition to the increase of the share for the health improvement, an additional 10 won is to be imposed on a pack of cigarette to support the farmers in the tobacco industry.

The tobacco consumers might feel that they do not deserve to pay for all those taxes. However, the domestic cigarette price is only about one third or a half of the cigarette price in the advanced countries. Antismoking activists have cried out to increase the cigarette price since the low price encourages the youth`s smoking. According to the analysis of the National Health Insurance Corporation, annually 500 billion won of medical fee is spent for the cancer and the respiratory diseases caused by smoking. The health insurance does not distinguish the premiums of the smokers and the non-smokers and therefore non-smokers have paid considerable portion of the medical expenditures for the diseases related to the smoking. The cigarette tax seems more reasonable.

Hwang Ho-Taeck hthwang@donga.com