SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, May 28, 2021 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government sets out to make Seoul a healthy city without cigarette by prohibiting tobacco advertisements and promotions as well as encouraging voluntary compliance with non-smoking zone in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the global public health organization Vital Strategies.
After joining the Partnership for Healthy Cities – supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with WHO and Vital Strategies – a network of 70 global cities, the city signed an agreement at the beginning of this year, and has carried out the tobacco control projects related to banning tobacco advertising as part of the initiative.
The Partnership for Healthy Cities is a prestigious global network of cities committed to saving lives by preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries. This initiative enables cities around the world to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to reduce NCDs and injuries in their communities In particular, in order to correct the environment, such as indiscriminately growing cigarette advertisements in retail stores, which can incites youth and non-smokers to smoking, Seoul promotes a collaborative project under the theme of tobacco advertisement regulation. It also implements the survey of the current status of cigarette advertisements in each district of Seoul, the citizens’ perception of ban on tobacco advertisement and promotional campaign of the ban.
In addition to the survey, the city also proceed with the establishment of exemplary stores for selfregulation of cigarette advertisements, eduction of the harmful smoking environment for citizens, adolescents, and retail store owners, and implementation of another survey on the need of tobacco advertisements regulation as well as tobacco control promotions and campaigns.
At the same time, it monitors non-smoking compliance in smoking-free zones to find out obstacles to compliance and solutions to improve voluntary compliance.
Especially, as the city believes that the prolonged pandemics has caused more smokers to try to quit smoking, it actively promotes smoking cessation, which can reduce the risk of chronic disease and COVID 19 infection at the same time. Meanwhile, through cooperation with international organizations such as the WHO, the city plans to put all its efforts into creating a healthy environment where no new smoker is made.
The key informant survey is another joint project with Partnership for Healthy Cities. It is to collect opinions of key informants by region (sampling by occupational group) on the overall city’s tobacco control and smoking cessation policies given the spread of COVID 19. Based on the survey result, the city will establish and promote tobacco control policies to respond to the post COVID19.
According to the 2020 Community Health Survey and Youth Health Behavior Survey, the adult male smoking rate in Seoul is 28.9%, the lowest ever, falling below 30% for the first time. The youth smoking rate decreased sharply to 5.7% after remaining around 3.4% for 3 years in a row, showing the lowest smoking rate ever.
This decline in smoking rate was also found to have a relation with the spread of COVID 19. As Seoul asked its 1,500 citizens if they have changed their health-related behaviors because of the infectious disease, 27.7% of smokers responded that the amount or frequency of smoking decreased.
This result can also be confirmed in the increase in the rate of smoker’s cessation attempt. The rate is 49.1% in Seoul, a big increase of 26.4%point from 22.7% in 2018.
The relationship between COVID-19 and smoking is managed with high severity both at home and abroad. Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency(KDCA) is also strengthening the practice by adding pregnant women, senior citizens 65 year-old and older, and smokers with chronic diseases to the high-risk group of pandemics. WHO and the US CDC added smoking as a risk factor that can lead to morbidity or death when infected with the virus The WHO chooses a non-smoking declaration as the theme of the 2021 World NO Tobacco Day (May 31) to strongly recommend smokers to declare smoking cessation for the themselves and their family members amid the global spread of COVID 19.
Park Yoo-mi, Director-General of Citizens’ Health Bureau, said, “As COVID 19 continues, I hope that many smokers will decide to quit smoking for themselves and their families on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day.” We will do our best to create a healthy city without cigarettes by establishing close networks with domestic and foreign organizations to proactively respond to the changing smoking environment and expanding customized smoking cessation support services.”
◈ Adult smoking rate in Seoul (19 years and older)
(Source: 2020 Community Health Survey, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
◈ Youth smoking rate in Seoul
(Source: 2020 Youth health behavior survey, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention