SEJONG, Sept. 15 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s tobacco imports rose to the highest level ever last year on the back of the popularity of e-cigarettes, government data showed Sunday.
South Korea imported US$589.3 million worth of tobacco products in 2018, a record-high amount and the largest on-year growth since 1995, according to Statistics Korea.
The sharp rise in tobacco imports was driven by strong sales of e-cigarettes, which are mostly made in foreign countries.
About 330 million packs of e-cigarettes were sold in South Korea last year, representing exponential growth since their launch in the domestic market in May 2017.
In contrast, sales of regular filtered cigarettes shed 30 million packs to reach 3.1 billion units last year.
South Korea shipped $925.3 million worth of tobacco products in 2018, the lowest-ever figure since data began to be compiled in 1977, Statistics Korea said.
A government official attributed falling tobacco exports to Philip Morris Korea’s shifting its production from regular filter products to e-cigarettes last year, which led to a cut in overall shipments.