Korea to toughen rules on tobacco packaging in Dec

From December, cigarette packages will be half-covered with warning signs of the health risk of smoking, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Monday.

According to the relevant law revision, the size of the warnings that tobacco producers will be obliged to attach to their product packages will increase from the current 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

They also have to insert an anti-smoking hotline number ? 1544-9030. On low-tar products, the phrase, "Low-tar cigarettes are as harmful to health as ordinary cigarettes," will be added.

"We are aiming to adopt warning pictures such as lungs with cancer or people having had their larynx removed. This will help drop the nationwide smoking rate," said a ministry official. "But the resistance from the industry as well as smokers is huge. For the time being, we will work on enlarging the signs."

As part of efforts to reduce the number of smokers, the ministry has added highway rest houses, regional cultural heritage sites, pool halls and sports facilities to its list of smoke-free areas.

Still, restaurants with less than 150 square meters of floor space were excluded from the smoking ban.

"We will work on adding small places in the near future," the ministry said.

According to the authorities, the adult male smoking rate stands at 47 per cent as of 2011.

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