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Do Koreans smoke a lot of cigarettes?


Korean culture is known for its unique traditions and customs, but one habit that has garnered attention in recent years is smoking. This article will explore the question of whether Koreans smoke a lot of cigarettes or not. It will delve into various aspects of smoking in Korea, including the history, prevalence, and cultural attitudes towards smoking.

History of Smoking in Korea

Smoking has been a part of Korean culture for centuries. The first recorded use of tobacco in Korea dates back to the 16th century when it was introduced by foreign traders. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that smoking became widespread among Koreans. During this time, tobacco was mostly used for medicinal purposes, but as the popularity grew, so did the number of smokers.

Prevalence of Smoking in Korea

Smoking is still quite prevalent in Korea today. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 24% of Korean adults smoke, which is higher than the global average of 20%. The report also states that more men smoke than women in Korea, with over 39% of men being smokers.

Cultural Attitudes Towards Smoking

Despite the high prevalence of smoking in Korea, there are mixed cultural attitudes towards it. Some Koreans view smoking as a social activity and a way to relieve stress. However, there is also a growing concern about the health risks associated with smoking, and many Koreans view smoking as a negative habit.

Government Regulations on Smoking

The Korean government has implemented various regulations to curb smoking in recent years. In 2015, it banned smoking in all indoor public spaces, including restaurants and bars. The government has also increased taxes on cigarettes to discourage people from smoking. Additionally, cigarette packaging now features graphic warnings about the health risks associated with smoking.

The Influence of Korean Media on Smoking

Korean media has played a role in shaping attitudes towards smoking. Smoking is often depicted in Korean dramas and movies, and some celebrities have been criticized for smoking in public. However, there has been a recent trend of portraying smoking in a negative light in Korean media, with some dramas and movies emphasizing the health risks associated with smoking.

Smoking Among Korean Youth

One concern about smoking in Korea is its prevalence among young people. According to a report by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), around 10% of middle school students and 27% of high school students smoke. The government has implemented various campaigns to discourage youth from smoking, including education programs and anti-smoking advertisements.

Smoking Cessation Programs in Korea

There are various smoking cessation programs available in Korea for those who want to quit smoking. These programs include nicotine replacement therapy, counseling, and support groups. The Korean government also offers financial incentives for those who quit smoking.

The Economic Impact of Smoking in Korea

Smoking has a significant economic impact on Korea. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the direct cost of smoking-related illnesses in Korea was estimated to be around 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in 2015. Additionally, the government collects around 10 trillion won ($9 billion) in tobacco taxes each year.

International Comparisons

Compared to other countries, Korea’s smoking rate is relatively high. According to WHO data, countries like Sweden and Norway have much lower smoking rates than Korea. However, some countries like Indonesia and Russia have even higher smoking rates than Korea.

Efforts to Reduce Smoking in Korea

Despite the high prevalence of smoking in Korea, there are ongoing efforts to reduce it. The government continues to implement various anti-smoking policies, and there are numerous smoking cessation programs available. Additionally, there has been a growing awareness about the health risks associated with smoking, and more Koreans are choosing to quit.


In conclusion, smoking is still prevalent in Korea, but the government and various organizations are working to reduce it. While there are mixed attitudes towards smoking in Korean culture, there is growing concern about the health risks associated with it. As more Koreans become aware of these risks, it is likely that the smoking rate will continue to decline in the coming years.

How common is smoking in South Korea?

Several surveys have been conducted to determine the rate of smoking in South Korea. The World Health Organization’s 2017 report found that in 2015, roughly 49.8% of adult Korean males and 4.2% of adult Korean females were smokers.

Do Koreans smoke more than Americans?

Cigarette smoking is very prevalent in Asia, with a significant portion of the male population in Japan (30%) and South Korea (39.1%) being smokers according to 2016 data. This is in contrast to the United States, where only 15.5% of adults over 18 smoke, and California, which has the lowest smoking rate among all states at 11.6%, second only to Utah.

Which country has the lowest cigarette smokers?

The percentage of people aged 15 and above who smoke on a daily basis varies by country. The countries with the lowest rates of smoking are Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Luxembourg, with percentages ranging from 9.3 to 13.5. This data was last updated on January 12, 2023.

Why is smoking so popular in Korea?

The high rate of smoking among Korean men is attributed in part to the military’s conscription system, where smoking and chatting with fellow unit members was seen as essential for communication.

Who smokes the most in the US?

American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rate of cigarette smoking among all ethnic groups in the US, with 27.1% of their population smoking commercial tobacco cigarettes.

Is there a country where nobody smokes?

Ten years after the initial development, Turkmenistan made smoking illegal in public spaces, state buildings, and within the army. Additionally, all tobacco advertising was prohibited. This change occurred on July 21, 2015.

One factor that may contribute to the high smoking rate in Korea is the availability and affordability of cigarettes. Cigarettes in Korea are relatively cheap compared to other countries, making them more accessible to people of all income levels. Additionally, cigarettes can be purchased in convenience stores and vending machines, making them easily accessible to consumers.

Another factor that may contribute to the high smoking rate among Korean men is the social pressure to smoke. In some workplaces, smoking may be seen as a way to bond with colleagues or show respect to superiors. This can make it difficult for individuals who want to quit smoking to do so without feeling ostracized or excluded from their social circle.

However, there has been a recent shift towards healthier lifestyles in Korea, with more people focusing on exercise and healthy eating habits. This trend may also lead to a decrease in smoking rates as people become more aware of the negative health effects of smoking.

In addition to government policies and anti-smoking campaigns, the responsibility also falls on individuals to make the decision to quit smoking. Quitting smoking can be difficult, but it can significantly improve one’s health and quality of life. Seeking support from family, friends, or healthcare professionals can also make the process easier.

Overall, while smoking remains a prevalent habit in Korean culture, there are efforts being made to reduce its impact on public health. With continued education and awareness about the risks of smoking, coupled with government policies and support programs, it is possible for Korea to reach a future where smoking rates are significantly lower.

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