Seoul toughens smoking ban in restaurants

Cigarettes Ashtray

Smoking will be banned in restaurants, bakeries, coffee stores and bars with a surface place of 150 square metres or larger in South Korea beginning from December 8, the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Indoor as well as outdoor places of public buildings such as hospitals, libraries, government offices and commercial complexes will as well be specified as smoke-free zones, the ministry stated.

The modification to the National Health Promotion Act was supported at the Cabinet meeting.

“The government has determined to enforce stricter regulations on smoking as it identified limits in defending the public health with the existing laws,” the ministry stated.

Starting from December 8, about 80,000 restaurants should announce themselves as smoke-free eatery areas and determine a separate area for smoking customers. For those who breach the law, the government will enforce fines varying from 1.7 million (US$1,560) to 5 million won depending on the amount of breaks.

Not only restaurant keepers but also clients will be fined 100,000 won if they light up outside specified smoking places, officials said.

Smokers may have to look for smoking areas whenever they enter public buildings as the new legislation bans smoking even in their parking lots, rooftops and gardens.

The new legislation requires building keepers to set up a smoking area outside and 10 metres away from the entrance of their buildings.

The new smoking ban also contains prohibition of the use of names mentioning flavours added to cigarettes. Cigarette makers should take away words like menthol, mojito, cherry, aroma, coffee and apple mint from tobacco products, also as of this Saturday. Cigarette makers in Korea said they got tips from the Ministry of Health in November and changed the names of current flavoured tobacco products.

“We will adopt the government’s new law by modifying the names of flavoured tobacco products,” stated an official at KT&G.

Among mounting calls for bettering public health and a clean environment, the Korean government has been broadening smoking-ban guidelines in recent years, while preserving the price of cigarettes considerably lower than other developed countries.

The government intends to prohibit smoking in small restaurants with areas larger than 100 square metres in 2014 and to all restaurants, irrespective of size, in 2015.

Smoking in internet cafes will also be banned starting in June 2013.

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