SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- Sales of cigarettes in South Korea almost remained unchanged last year from a year earlier, but demand for electronic cigarettes rose amid the protracted pandemic, the finance ministry said Friday.
South Korean smokers purchased 3.59 billion 20-cigarette packs in 2021, similar to the number logged the previous year, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Demand for traditional cigarettes declined as people preferred the use of electronic cigarettes amid tighter virus curbs and an expansion of telecommuting, according to the ministry.
Sales of traditional cigarettes fell 2 percent on-year to 3.15 billion packs last year, while those of heat-not-burn tobacco products rose 17.1 percent to 440 million packs.
Sales of cigarettes declined 17.7 percent last year compared with 2014, a year before the country hiked tobacco prices.
The government said this indicated the nation's anti-smoking campaign had an impact on curbing smoking.
The country raised the price of cigarettes by 80 percent in January 2015 from 2,500 won (US$2) per pack to 4,500 won in a move to reduce smoking.
The government mandated that tobacco companies place graphic images depicting the harmful effects of smoking on the upper part of cigarette packs in 2016.
As of 2020, the smoking rate among Korean men aged 19 or older reached a record low of 34 percent, down 1.7 percentage points from a year earlier, according to the health ministry.
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