SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Korea Bizwire) – 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.
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.
Since the Korean government’s announcement regarding the increase in cigarette prices, the number of smokers who have visited smoking clinics at Community Health Centers reached 127,000 nationwide. The figure is 46 percent larger than that of same period in 2014. Smoking clinics in hospitals are also gaining popularity.
By J.W. Choi (firstname.lastname@example.org)