South Korea’s Health Ministry has come under fire for using the money raised from tobacco taxes for projects not related to smoking prevention, according to a story in The Korea Herald.
The criticism, which was levelled at the ministry during a two-day parliamentary audit session on Monday and Tuesday, came about a month after the ministry had announced it would raise tobacco prices by 80 percent in the name of improving public health.
According to Kim Yong-ik of the main opposition party, the ministry set aside WON990 million for telemedicine [the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology] from the National Health Promotion Fund, which is partly raised through tobacco taxes.
Telemedicine has been fiercely opposed by the nation’s health care providers and the lawmaker raised concerns about the legitimacy of the ministry’s recent push to hike tobacco prices by January 2015. “The National Health Promotion Fund is already being used for inappropriate purposes,” he said.
“This makes it even more questionable that the raised tobacco taxes, if implemented, will be used for the right purposes.”
The central government’s proposal on cigarette prices has been criticized by a number of politicians as a ‘trick’ to make up for a tax revenue shortage.