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Cigarette packs to carry graphic health warnings

Starting Friday, graphic warnings about the harmful effects of smoking will be attached to cigarette packs sold in South Korea.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, all cigarette packs sold here, including those sold at duty-free shops, must carry one of 10 designated full-color and disturbing photos with warnings on the adverse effects of smoking.

Some of the photos depict the body parts of smokers suffering from fatal diseases such as lung cancer, oral cancer, heart attack and strokes. Text warnings include those about the dangers of secondhand smoke, smoking while pregnant, as well as possible side effects such as sexual dysfunction, skin aging and premature death.

The graphic health warnings must be placed on the upper part of both sides of cigarette packets. The photos are required to cover more than 30 percent of both sides of each packet, the ministry said.

The ministry also plans to resume anti-smoking TV ads, introducing real cases of victims of smoking. It had stopped doing so 14 years ago.

It will take one month before the cigarette packs with the warnings will appear in the market due to production and distribution procedures. However, some of the cigarette packs with graphic warnings will be released at retail stores starting Friday for promotion purposes near crowded downtown areas such as Gwanghwanmun, Yeouido and Gangnam, the ministry added.

Anti-smoking campaigns that use such visual images were first introduced in Canada in 2001. Such practices are currently adopted by 101 countries around the world.

“After reviewing figures from 18 countries which adopted the graphic health warning labels, it was found that the smoking rate fell by 13.8 percent in Brazil, while the average for these countries was around 4 percent, after these labels were attached,” said the ministry official.

In June, the National Assembly approved a bill that makes it obligatory for tobacco-makers to display graphic warnings on cigarette packs to promote people’s health.

Under the law, the graphics will be replaced every 24 months and a notice about the next 10 photos will be announced six months ahead of the replacement. Violators of the law will face up to a year in jail or up to 10 million won ($12,000) in fines, or revocation of the company’s business license.

The smoking rate among South Koreans, aged 19 or older, dropped to 39.3 percent last year from 43.1 percent in 2014. It marked the first time that South Korea’s smoking rate fell below 40 percent.

The decrease came after sharp hikes in tobacco prices here. The government raised tobacco prices by 2,000 won per pack in January as part of an anti-smoking campaign.

The ministry announced last year that it aims to lower the smoking rate among South Korean men to 29 percent by 2020.

By Kim Da-sol (

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