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South Korea has one of world's highest smoking rates

The country is a paradise for smokers as the cost of cigarettes is lower than that of most other countries around the world, while eye-catching smoking advertisements attract smokers and non-smokers alike.

SEOUL: South Korea has one of the world's highest smoking rates. The country is a paradise for smokers as the cost of cigarettes is lower than that of most other countries around the world.

Inside convenient stores, not only are cigarettes sold but there are also ads -- brightly lit and showing how fresh, clean and smooth cigarettes are -- luring smokers and non-smokers.

One resident said: “Usually images show white fumes and how bad they are. But those blue colours are eye-catching -- as if it's alright and in a way delicious to try them.”

Reports estimate companies spend about 100 billion won (about US$99 million) for such ads in about 24,000 convenient stores across the country. Companies are allowed to advertise inside the stores but not on the outside.

Meanwhile, to combat this, the South Korean government has recently launched a new anti-smoking advertisement. But experts say more should be done.

Cho Hong-jun, professor of Family Medicine at Asan Medical Center, said: "We shouldn't be making pretty ads. I think we need real smokers to come on and tell people about how they're suffering."

The government is also planning to hike prices of cigarettes which have remained the same for the last 10 years. However details have yet to be released. Right now, on average a pack of local cigarettes cost 2,500 won, which is about US$2.50.

According to the health ministry, around 25 percent of South Korean adults and 10 per cent of teenagers are smokers, with the figures for the male adults much higher at around 44 per cent.

The government has also banned smoking in most public areas in the country, but unless drastic steps are taken, experts say it's going to be difficult to get smokers to quit.  

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