The South Korean government’s latest anti-smoking video is drawing strong opposition from smokers because it equates buying tobacco products with buying lung cancer, according to a story in The Korea Times.
The nation’s largest smokers’ group, ‘I love Smoking,’ which has about 100,000 members, said yesterday that the Ministry of Health and Welfare ‘has violated smokers’ human rights by branding smoking, which is a personal preference, as a sin’.
‘The ministry’s video has clearly crossed the line,’ the group said in a press release.
It said that the video showed every smoker as suffering from a disease. If smoking was a disease, it added, drinking alcohol was a disease because it caused liver problems, eating fast food was a disease because it led to obesity, and riding in cars was more than a disease – it was a disaster.
The group said that what was being portrayed amounted to ‘a jump of logic,’ and it discriminated against smokers.
The ministry released its first anti-smoking video entitled ‘Smoking is a Disease’ on August 17, and the second has been aired since November 16.
In the latest video, customers ask a convenience store clerk to, Give me 1 milligram of laryngeal cancer, Give me lung cancer, or Give me a stroke [this one presumably sounds more threatening in Korean], and then they receive a pack of cigarettes.
“Every adult can buy and smoke tobacco freely,” said group leader Lee Yeon-ik. “It’s a legitimate right to pursue happiness guaranteed by the Constitution. The footage describes smokers as disgusting people, infringing on their basic human rights and humiliating them.”
Lee pointed out that the government collected a huge amount of tax through tobacco sales, especially since the beginning of this year when it hiked the price of a pack of cigarettes to WON4,500 (US$4.30) from WON2,500.
The tax hike was aimed at reducing Korea’s smoking rate, which, at 36.2 percent among men as of 2013, was the third highest rate among the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But The Times said that recent research had indicated the smoking rate had not been reduced by much since the price hike.
The group was due to stage a rally in front of the ministry building in Sejong today and it has said it will submit to the ministry and the Korea Communications Standards Commission a written opinion calling on the government to stop broadcasting the video.