South Korean smokers finally beginning to feel the heat

After decades of indifference, big business and the government picking up the heat on smokers in South Korea, a country with one of the highest in the developed world in the men’s smoking. Some firms are pressing workers to quit or skip to the promotion and the Ministry of Health will tighten warnings on cigarette packs.

Seoul plans to Council in the end, to one fifth of the total area of smoking. Even the military in on the act: Army recruits undergo basic training will get a consultation at the clinic on how to quit smoking. However, successive national governments – are afraid of the reaction of the election – holding back from raising taxes on cigarettes. Some 44.3 percent of South Korean men smoked in 2009, according to recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Smoking among Korean women is low due to social taboos.

Samsung Electronics, the country’s largest employer, is at the forefront of efforts to persuade the workers to stop smoking. The leaders of its Device Solutions (DS) division, which employs 35,000 people from a total of 101,970 employees of Samsung Electronics in Korea, recently urged employees to join smoking programmed. A company representative said almost all the staff made the DS-smoking obligations as part of what is called “well accepted” voluntary programmed. The department “considers employees as the most valuable asset and their health and well-being are top priority. Recent cessation programmed is a continuation of this belief,” the statement said.

A spokesman said the company generally considers the strengthening of anti-smoking policy. “Some consequences for smokers are under consideration. They have not been completed or are violent,” he said, adding that smoking may be a factor in promotion. Group Woongjin, which has a wide range of business, have also tightened their policies. He said the shares in February, took into account smoking, and all new employees must sign an anti-smoking pledge. “Statements have been made to the promotion, so there were no complaints from those who did not get a promotion,” said his spokesman.

Woongjin conducts random hair and urine for a large number of workers on an irregular basis. Media reported that several other large companies use this tactic, even if they publicly deny the pressure on staff. Some employees say they do not mind. “At first I had negative feelings about politics, because he was too strong. But, as I followed him, I began to think that it’s good for me, “said Che Yong-Jin, 31, who recently quit smoking. Outside the workplace, Seoul government banned smoking in public squares and in parks and near bus stops and schools. Offenders face 100,000 won ($ 86) fine. “We have caught 240 cases last year in the main squares and parks, and this year, our 23 officers are going to a random spot and catch from three to five smokers every day,” said Song Yo-Sung, the manager of the city government.

By 2014, the city plans to make 21 percent of its total area of non-smoking zones. He is considering a complete ban on smoking in all public places, except in certain specific points. Ministry of Health will increase the size of warnings on cigarette packs with 30 percent of the surface area of up to 50 percent. “Two more messages that a number of consultation hotline and reported that the inhalation of tar depends on smoking habits, will be printed from the original message,” said Song Myoung-June, the deputy director of the ministry.

The ministry also plans to use the graphics warnings, such as diseased lungs on packs, although it may take some time to change laws allowing it.

But officials are still hesitant to raise taxes on cigarettes, the lowest among OECD countries. Pack of Marlboro costs only 2700 Won ($ 2.31). Song acknowledged that the price was low, but said the growth “requires public consent.” Some smokers say the newfound zeal in South Korea is excessive. “Testing and constant pressure on employees to quit smoking, even after work, clearly violates human rights,” said Hong Sung-Yong, director of the Association of Addiction Korea.

“People should not make smokers look like barbarians, when smoking is legal and legitimate, we pay taxes,” he said, urging Seoul to designate public places smoke-free. “Prohibition of smoking, as smokers by clicking on the edge, but only shows that they do not care at all about the rights of smokers,” Hong said.

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