The main reason is the increase in e-cigarette consumption

South Korea's overall smoking rate has declined slightly since COVID-19 due to restrictions on outdoor smoking, but per capita smoking and cigarette sales climbed as e-cigarettes became the "new darling." Although studies have shown that smoking is one of the risk factors that increases the risk of COVID-19 infection and severe illness, the rate of smoking cessation in South Korea has dropped significantly due to the epidemic and marketing by tobacco companies.


South Korea's per capita smoking recovers due to COVID-19


After the outbreak of the new crown, the overall smoking rate in South Korea decreased slightly. Relevant surveys show that the smoking rate of Korean adults in 2021 is 19.1%, which is lower than 19.8% in 2020. Among them, the smoking rate of adult men dropped by about 1 percentage point year-on-year to 35.6%. It is reported that South Korea will no longer require wearing masks outdoors from May 2, and the overall smoking rate may rise.

Since 2011, South Korea's per capita smoking rate has declined for 10 consecutive years, but it has shown a rebound after the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia. The data show that South Korea's per capita smoking volume fell from 15.3 cigarettes in 2011 to 12.4 cigarettes in 2019, but rose again to 13.5 cigarettes in 2020, mainly due to the increase in e-cigarette consumption. One study found that e-cigarette-only smokers smoked an average of 8.7 cigarettes per day; real and e-cigarette smokers combined smoked twice as much to 17.1 cigarettes. Lin Renze, director of the Health Policy Department of the Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea, said that at present, the "Tobacco Business Law" only applies to tobacco made from tobacco leaves, and e-cigarettes are actually a gray area. Definition of Tobacco.

According to the Korean media "Dong-A Ilbo", the wearing of masks outdoors was previously restricted by the mandatory order, and it was difficult for people to smoke outdoors, and smokers who did not like e-cigarettes had to switch to e-cigarettes. Because the smell and smoke of e-cigarettes are very small, it is good to find a place with no one. The smoker who was interviewed said: "When I was in the office, I basically smoked e-cigarettes, so the amount of smoking actually increased by about three times compared to before the epidemic."

Data shows that nearly 80% of e-cigarette smokers are "secretly smoking" indoors. A study published by Professor Zhao Hongjun's team at Asan Hospital in Seoul showed that 79.2% of e-cigarette smokers said they had "secretly smoked" in the last month.

Smokers are more susceptible to COVID-19

Related academic research in South Korea has shown that tobacco can increase the receptor "ACE2" of the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, smokers have more virus receptors accumulated in their bodies, so the probability of contracting new coronary pneumonia is five times higher than that of ordinary people; and smokers who smoke e-cigarettes and ordinary cigarettes at the same time are more likely to contract new coronary pneumonia than ordinary people. 7 times.

In addition, the toxic substances in cigarettes can reduce cardiovascular and pulmonary immune function. Therefore, compared with non-smokers, smokers are also more likely to develop severe illness after contracting new coronary pneumonia. The team of Professor Zhao Xiuxian of Central University Hospital in South Korea said that compared with smokers who only smoked real cigarettes, smokers who smoked both e-cigarettes and real cigarettes had higher inflammation in their bodies and were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Despite this, during the epidemic, people's vigilance against the harm of tobacco did not rise but fell. According to the report, in the first half of 2020, only about 90,000 people quit smoking at the National Smoking Cessation Center in South Korea, which has decreased by more than half year-on-year due to the impact of the new crown epidemic. The proportion of smokers who successfully quit smoking was 22.3%, down from 38.5% the previous year. The rate of individual smoking cessation attempts in 2020 also hit a record low of 52.5%.

Kim Gil-ryong, head of the anti-smoking policy group of the National Anti-smoking Support Center of Korea, said that although smoking is one of the important risk factors for increasing the risk of new coronary pneumonia infection and severe disease, tobacco companies do everything possible to conduct various promotions and advertising. smoking rate). There is no harmless cigarette in the world, and the best option to protect your health is to quit smoking.

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