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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

tobacco outlets, price

The Ministry of Finance and Economy and Korean Tobacco and Ginseng (KT&G) have found out that the number of tobacco retailers in Korea is very high compared to "developed nations" despite of the relatively detailed regulations concerning tobacco retailing (Yonhap article in Hankyoreh). The number of outlets is 153 000, one for 319 inhabitants. Considering the retail system in which small shops and kiosks are struggling but surviving even when facing the huge retailers, this shouldn't be a surprise; the regulation which demands a minimum of 50 meters' distance between tobacco retailers still has left many shops without the desired tobacco retail licence. With the still high proportion of smokers of the Korean population, having the tobacco retail licence is not a small matter for many small shops; in the "Kolmok Street" there was (and most likely still is) that small sesame oil press shop, in which almost all of the customers came to buy cigs. The supermarket across the street was without the licence.

Honam Sanghoe selling cigarettes in what used to be the Nan'gok hillside neighborhood in Sillim 7-dong. (c) AL 2000
The governmental Regulatory Reform Committee (규제개혁위원회), which has been set up to... reform regulations (!) has decided not to recommend any reforms for tobacco retailing regulations despite of them being "against market principles": the number of shops is already high,

A few additional notes concerning tobacco from the list of articles in the Hankyoreh article cited above. (It should be noted that I'm for measures for getting the smoking rates down, and the cigarette stench from some individuals in the morning commuter train is just revolting; those should be confined in the own compartment. But Korean attitudes towards smoking are an interesting thing to make notes of...)
• Late last year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to raise the tobacco prices (or tax) only once in the following year instead of the planned two raises, which will most likely cause trouble for the planned expansion of the health insurance system, which was supposed to have been financed in part with the increased tobacco tax revenue.
• The Writers' Association (Munin Hyôphoe) issued in late November a statement demanding that the government immediately withdraw the plans to raise the tobacco prices, since "due to the bad economy publishing novels has become more difficult, and its unacceptable to raise the price of tobacco, which is the sole friend of creative work (창작의 유일한 벗)". Morover, "raising the [tobacco] price without any rational reason in the manner of a witch hunt (마녀사냥 하듯) is against the principle of equality guaranteed in the constitution." (At least the writers have been using their creative powers in making this statement.)
• As a response to this, the Association of Non-smoking Campaigns (?, 한국금연운동협의회) issued a statement of "Six reasons why smoking is bad for writers". Too busy to translate, sorry:
1. 글을 쓰는 사람은 눈을 많이 쓰는데 담배는 녹내장이나 노인성황반변성을 일으켜 시력을 현저하게 저하시킨다.
2.글쓰는 사람은 장시간 앉아있어 운동량이 적기 때문에 혈액순환이 원활치 못한데 담배까지 피운다면 동맥경화증을 악화시키고 순환기 질환에 걸릴 위험이 매우 높다.
3. 글쓰는 사람이 스트레스를 많이 받는데 담배는 스트레스를 더욱 심하게 해건강 피해가 더욱 심각해진다.
4. 글쓰는 사람은 기억력이 좋아야 하는데 흡연자는 40대 이후부터 기억력 소실 속도가 현저히 빨리 진행된다.
5. 글쓰는 사람은 집중력이있어야 하는데 담배 속에 들어 있는 일산화탄소 때문에 정신집중이 잘 안된다.
6. 담배를 피우는 작가가 쓴 글은 담배를 미화하거나 흡연을 당연시하는 분위기를 조성할 수 있다.

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