In one of my workshops for Hyundai-Kia, we were discussing the trend in Korea towards "Health." For example, I remarked that Korean websites for McDonalds were designed with a nutritious and health-focused look.
In response, on American noted "So, why do so many Smoke?" I noted it's a concern. In fact, I explained that many cities were addressing the issue. This article is timely.
A 27-year-old woman, identified as Lee, got a burn on her wrist from the lit cigarette of a smoker, while walking on a street in downtown Seoul a couple of weeks ago.
People walk on a non-smoking street in Tonam-dong, northern Seoul, Tuesday. The Songbuk district office designated the street around Sungshin Women's University as a non-smoking zone in 2003 to reduce the soaring rate of smoking among teenagers and women.
On a crowded street, a burning cigarette can be very annoying as it can hurt other pedestrians. I want others not to smoke on such a busy street. I don'’t want to inhale second hand smoke from someone in front of me," she said.
As people are getting more concerned about health and well-being, more and more municipal governments are joining efforts to reduce the smoking rate for the sake of their residents’ health.
Since the Songbuk district office in northern Seoul first introduced "a street without smoking" in a 250-meter-long zone in 2003 in an effort to stem the soaring smoking rate, especially among women and juvenile smokers, other district offices are following suit.
It is the first of its kind to adopt such an ordinance in the nation.
The office has decided to designated the smoking-free zone, where many women and teens used to go in Tonam-dong, near Sungshin Women’s University.
Since the designation of the zone, the district’s smoking rate has been on the decline. The area is becoming a symbol for many residents who are joining in our anti-smoking campaign, Kim Wang-dae, an official of the district office's health department, told The Korea Times.
According to the office, the smoking rate fell from 56.4 percent in the district in 2001 to 42 percent in 2004.
The female smoking rate also declined from 3.2 percent to 2.3 percent over the last three years.
We're holding various events to encourage many residents to participate in the anti-smoking campaign. We also celebrate the World No Tobacco Day every year in that area. Many housewives and residents are serving as volunteers to promote the campaign in the zone, Kim said.
Kim said that when the office first introduced the idea of designating the area as a non-smoking zone, many smokers and nearby store owners selling tobacco seriously opposed the plan.
However, the area is home to many teenagers, making a strong case for the ban, he added.
Kim said that the non-smoking zone has functioned for the past three years, but is not legally binding for smokers if they smoke there.
However, it works well for its promotional and symbolic function to fight against smoking and protect health.
In response to the anti-smoking policy in the district, many other districts nationwide are stepping up their efforts to copy the ideas.
In Taejon, the Chunggu district office has designated a 200-meter-long zone where many teenagers used to go in March 2004.
Also, Munkyong in North Kyongsang Province, also named a non-smoking zone in front of the public health center in 2005.
Cheju Island plans to adopt an ordinance for banning smoking in a certain area and imposing fines for smokers there.
Under the island's ordinance to protect its citizens’ health and create clean streets, smokers could be fined up to 1 million won if they smoke in the non-smoking area.
According to an online portal site's recent survey, 65 percent of 2,900 Internet users said they opposed street smoking because of the second hand smoke factor.
However, smokers are voicing their opposition to the anti-smoking ban on streets.
The Korean Smokers' Association has issued a statement, saying that the move taken by many municipal governments is going too far by depriving smokers' right to indulge in their habit outdoors.
Non-smoking policy to protect only non-smokers is making smokers become offenders. If we're not allowed to smoke in outdoor places, then where can we smoke? We should be able to have a smoking sections as long as they do not affect the city environment, Chung Kyong-soo, head of the association, said.
It remains to be seen whether non-smoking streets will prove successful or not, as a heated debate over the rights of smokers and non-smokers is still continuing.