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Posted : 2015-02-22 17:26
Updated : 2015-02-22 18:02

Lawmakers to debate warning photos on cigarette packs

By Kim Se-jeong

Lawmakers will start debating Tuesday whether to make it mandatory for cigarette makers to print photos on cigarette packs showing the dangers of smoking.

The National Assembly Health and Welfare Committee will review the government's proposal to revise laws so they require warning photos such as damaged lungs or rotten teeth. Currently, tobacco makers are required only to print a health warning.

Observers said there is a good chance the revisions will take place. The government has made 11 unsuccessful attempts to have warning photos on cigarette packs since 2002.

"Many committee members agree it's time for the mandatory warning photos," said Rep. Kim Sung-ju of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a member of the committee. "We need to figure out how and when to start it."

But opposition is strong from smokers, who claim smoking is a basic right granted by the Constitution. Lobbying from tobacco companies is also an obstacle.

The government has recently taken strong steps to ban or restrict smoking.

The Ministry of Health almost doubled the price of cigarettes, Jan. 1. It also banned smoking in all bars, restaurants and cafes, regardless of size. The government is working to make it illegal to advertise cigarettes in convenience stores and to prohibit tobacco makers from sponsoring sports and cultural events.

The ministry is encouraged by experiences in other countries. In Canada, warning photos have helped reduce smoking among teenagers. Other studies have shown that photos helped reduce the smoking rate by 2 to 3 percent.

Warning photos are required in more than 70 countries. By 2016, the number will reach 95, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), whose Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Korea signed in 2005, also recommends the visual warnings.

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