S. Korea seeks to extend healthy life expectancy with higher tobacco, liquor prices

28 January 2021

Jung Ji-sung and Cho Jeehyun, Pulse

South Korean government has vowed to extend the country’s healthy life expectancy to 73.3 years by 2023 by bringing down smoking rate and alcohol consumption with higher price tags.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare released a three-year national health promotion plan on Wednesday, which include a goal to extend the country’s healthy life expectancy by 2.9 years from 70.4 years expected in 2018. The healthy life expectancy is the average number of years that an individual is expected to live in full health, in other words, not suffering from disabling illness or injuries.

As of 2018, Korea’s healthy life expectancy was about 12 years shorter than life expectancy, the number of years a person is expected to live.

The ministry will also seek to reduce the healthy life expectancy gap between high- and low-income level people. It aims to narrow the gap to 7.6 years or less between people in the top 20 percent income bracket and the bottom 20 percent group. As of 2018, the healthy life expectancy of the top 20 income group was 8.1 years longer.

To promote better heath, the ministry vowed to reduce the country’s smoking rate – to 25.0 percent for male and 4.0 percent for female by 2030 from 36.7 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, in 2018. To achieve the goal, the government plans to tighten the regulations related to smoking, including raising cigarette prices to the OECD countries’ average level set by the World Health Organization within 10 years.

New targets for the alcohol consumption level were set as well. The ministry aims to cut the binge drinking rate of men with high health risk to 17.8 percent by 2030 from 20.8 percent in 2018, and that of women to 7.3 percent from 8.4 percent. The government plans to review imposing health promotion charges to alcohol sales to help reduce consumption.