Smoking in South Korea

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Smoking in South Korea is similar to other developed countries in the OECD, with a daily smoking rate of 22.90% in 2012 compared to the OECD average of 21.13%. However, male smoking is among the highest at 40.80% while female smoking among the lowest at 5.20%.[1] The government aims to bring down male smoking rate to the OECD average of 29% by 2020 by using a combination of significant price hikes, mandatory warning photos on cigarette packs, advertising bans and complete smoking ban in public places including bars and restaurants.[2]

South Korea enforced strict smoking bans in public places from July 2013, with fines of 100,000 won on any spotted smoker and up to 5 million won on shop owners not following the law. From December 2012, smoking has been completely banned in bars and restaurants larger than 150 square meters (extended to 100 square meters from 2014), cafes, internet cafes, government buildings, kindergartens, schools, universities, hospitals, youth facilities, libraries, children's playgrounds, private academies, subway or train stations and their platforms and underground pathways, large buildings, theaters, department stores or shopping malls, large hotels and highway rest areas. More places now offer smoking areas separated by glass walls. The law has extended to bars and restaurants larger than 100 square meters since January 2014.

From 1 January 2015, South Korea will completely ban smoking on all bars, restaurants and cafes regardless of size, including any smoking rooms. Any spotted smoker must pay fines of 100,000 won and up to 5 million won on shop owners not obeying the law.

From 1 January 2015, Tobacco prices will nearly double to 4,500KRW.[3] Discussion is under way at the National Assembly to pass a law in 2015 that will raise the prices every year pegged to inflation, along with mandatory warning photos such as rotten teeth and lungs.

Smoking ban laws[edit]


Smoking is illegal and strictly prohibited in the following premises:

  • Office, multi-use or factory buildings larger than 1,000 square meters in floor area (of which offices, conference rooms, auditorium and lobby must be smoke-free).
  • Institutions larger than 1,000 square meters in floor area (of which classrooms, waiting rooms and lounges must be smoke-free).
  • Shopping malls, department stores and underground malls (of which any shop selling goods must be smoke-free).
  • Hotels and resorts (of which the lobby must be smoke-free).
  • Universities (of which lecture rooms, lounges, auditorium, cafeteria and conference hall must be smoke-free).
  • Indoor sports facilities such as basketball and volleyball courts which can seat more than 1,000 people (of which the seats and pathways must be smoke-free).
  • Social welfare facilities (of which the living and working rooms, lounge, cafeteria and conference hall must be smoke-free).
  • Airports, bus terminals and train stations (of which waiting rooms, domestic flights, cabins, inside trains, subway car and its platform and underground stations and underground pathways must be smoke-free).
  • Any vehicle that can seat more than 16 people.
  • Public baths (of which changing rooms and bathing rooms must be smoke-free).
  • Game arcades, comic book renting shops and internet cafes.
  • Restaurants such as cafes, fast food restaurants and bakeries.
  • Baseball or football stadiums which can seat more than 1,000 people (of which the seats and pathways must be smoke-free).
  • Kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.
  • Hospitals and health centers.
  • Nurseries.


In addition to the nationwide ban laws, Seoul designates the following areas must be smoke-free:[4]

Other cities[edit]

In addition to the nationwide ban laws, several cities designate the following areas must be smoke-free:

Prevalence and effects[edit]

Reports suggest that persistently high rates of smoking in the military contribute to the high incidence of male smoking, and negate the efficacy of anti-smoking measures, as many men start smoking during their mandatory 2-year military service. The Public Health Graduate School of Yonsei University completed a 13-year medical study on 1.2 million patients and found that about 73% of male smokers and 18% of female smokers contracted lung cancer.[citation needed] There is rising awareness of the health effects of tobacco.[20] The economy of South Korea loses more than 10 trillion won a year in terms of health-care expenses and lost man-hours due to smoking-related illness.

South Korean smoking etiquette[edit]

Local smoking etiquette in South Korea is influenced by Confucianism. For instance, smokers generally refrain from, or seek permission before lighting up in the presence of social superiors;[21] a social superior could be a boss, professor, parents, grandparents, or teacher.

External links[edit]