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Do Koreans smoke cigarettes?


Cigarette smoking is one of the most common habits in the world, with over 1 billion smokers worldwide. While smoking rates have decreased in many countries, it remains a prevalent habit in others. In this article, we will explore whether Koreans smoke cigarettes and why they continue to smoke despite the known risks.

History of smoking in Korea

Korea has a long history of tobacco use, dating back to ancient times. However, cigarette smoking only became popular in Korea during the 20th century when American soldiers introduced it during the Korean War. Since then, smoking rates have increased rapidly, and it has become a significant public health issue.

The prevalence of smoking in Korea

Despite efforts to reduce smoking rates, Korea still has a high prevalence of smokers. According to recent statistics, over 20% of Korean adults smoke cigarettes regularly. This is a significant decrease from previous years, but it still represents a large number of people who are at risk for smoking-related illnesses.

Why do Koreans smoke?

There are several reasons why Koreans continue to smoke cigarettes despite the known risks. One reason is the social acceptance of smoking in Korean culture. Many Koreans view smoking as a way to socialize and build relationships with others. Additionally, some Koreans believe that smoking can help relieve stress and anxiety, making it a coping mechanism.

The impact of smoking on public health

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide. In Korea, smoking-related illnesses are responsible for over 80,000 deaths each year. This not only puts a strain on the healthcare system but also has a significant impact on families and communities.

Efforts to reduce smoking rates in Korea

The Korean government has implemented several measures to reduce smoking rates, including increasing taxes on cigarettes, banning smoking in public places, and implementing anti-smoking campaigns. While these efforts have been effective in reducing smoking rates, there is still a long way to go.

The role of tobacco companies

Tobacco companies have played a significant role in the high smoking rates in Korea. They have targeted young people and women with marketing campaigns that promote smoking as glamorous and sophisticated. Additionally, they have lobbied against anti-smoking policies, making it difficult for the government to implement effective measures.

The impact of smoking on the economy

Smoking has a significant impact on the Korean economy, both in terms of healthcare costs and lost productivity. Smoking-related illnesses result in billions of dollars in healthcare costs each year, and smokers are more likely to miss work due to illness.

The dangers of secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is just as dangerous as smoking itself. In Korea, many people are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places, which puts them at risk for smoking-related illnesses. This is particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women.

Alternatives to smoking

There are several alternatives to smoking that can help people quit or reduce their tobacco use. These include nicotine replacement therapy, e-cigarettes, and counseling services. While quitting smoking can be challenging, these options can help make the process easier.

The future of smoking in Korea

While smoking rates have decreased in recent years, there is still a long way to go before Korea becomes a smoke-free country. The government will need to continue implementing effective anti-smoking measures while also addressing the social and cultural factors that contribute to smoking.


In conclusion, cigarette smoking remains a prevalent habit in Korea despite efforts to reduce smoking rates. Social acceptance, marketing campaigns by tobacco companies, and the belief that smoking can help relieve stress and anxiety are some of the reasons why Koreans continue to smoke. However, with continued efforts to reduce smoking rates and promote healthier alternatives, Korea can become a smoke-free country in the future.

Do Koreans smoke more than Americans?

Smoking is a prevalent habit in Asia, with a significant percentage of men smoking in countries like Japan (30%) and South Korea (39.1%) as of 2016. In comparison, the smoking rates among adults 18 and over in the United States (15.5%) and California (11.6%) – the state with the lowest smoking rate after Utah – are much lower.

Is it legal to smoke cigarettes in Korea?

In South Korea, the legal age for smoking is 19, so it’s possible that you’ll need to provide identification to purchase cigarettes. However, when buying from convenience stores or markets, it’s unlikely that you will be asked for identification.

What is the smoking age in Korea?

In Korea, cigarettes can be bought at most convenience stores, but only if the buyer is at least 19 years old, as that is the legal age for smoking.

Why is smoking so common in Korea?

Tobacco was introduced to Korea from Japan in the early 1600s, and smoking quickly became a popular activity among people of all genders, social classes, and ages. This was because tobacco had desirable qualities that were attractive to the people of Korea during that time period.

Which ethnicity smokes the most?

Individuals who identify as American Indian/Alaska Native (Non-Hispanic) have a higher incidence of smoking compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

What nationality smokes the least?

The percentage of individuals aged 15 and above who smoke on a daily basis varies between countries. Sweden has the lowest percentage at 9.3%, followed by Iceland at 11.2%, Finland at 12.5%, Norway at 12.9%, and Luxembourg at 13.5% as of January 12, 2023.

Some additional factors that contribute to the high smoking rates in Korea include the availability and affordability of cigarettes. Cigarettes are widely available in convenience stores and vending machines, making it easy for people to purchase them. Additionally, cigarettes are relatively cheap in Korea compared to other countries, which makes them more accessible to low-income individuals.

Another issue is the lack of education about the dangers of smoking. While anti-smoking campaigns have been effective in some ways, there is still a need for more comprehensive education programs that target young people and vulnerable populations. This includes educating people on the risks of secondhand smoke and the long-term health consequences of smoking.

It’s also important to address the role of cultural values in smoking. In Korea, there is a strong emphasis on conformity and fitting in with social norms. Smoking may be seen as a way to conform and fit in with certain groups, particularly among young people. Addressing this issue will require a shift in cultural values towards prioritizing health and well-being over social acceptance.

Overall, reducing smoking rates in Korea will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses social, cultural, economic, and educational factors. While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to create a healthier and smoke-free future for all Koreans.

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