SEOUL, July 29 (Korea Bizwire) — Sales of cigarettes in South Korea gained 1.9 percent on-year in the first half of the year on weak demand for duty-free cigarettes amid the coronavirus pandemic and increased sales of heated tobacco products, the finance ministry said Friday.
South Korean smokers purchased 1.78 billion 20-cigarette packs in the January-June period, compared with 1.75 billion packs a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The rise came as COVID-19 continued to prompt smokers to resort less to duty-free cigarettes and more heated tobacco products were sold, the ministry said.
Sales of traditional cigarettes dropped 1 percent on-year to 1.52 billion packs in the first half, but those of heated tobacco products soared 22.5 percent to 260 million packs.
The first-half tally was down 12.5 percent from the first half of 2014, months before the country hiked tobacco prices.
The ministry said it shows that the nation’s anti-smoking campaign has had an impact on curbing smoking.
The country raised the price of cigarettes by 80 percent in January 2015, from 2,500 won (US$1.92) per pack to 4,500 won, in a move to reduce smoking.
The government mandated that tobacco companies place graphic images depicting the harmful effects of smoking on the upper part of cigarette packs in 2016.
As of 2020, the smoking rate among Korean men aged 19 or older had reached a record low of 34 percent, down 1.7 percentage points from a year earlier, according to the health ministry.