South Korea's e-cigarette sales have increased nearly sevenfold in the past five years, while traditional tobacco sales have declined by 10%?

According to a report by South Korean media outlet Hani on September 20th, the sales of tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes have surged 6.8 times in the domestic market. Compared to traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes are generally believed to have a smaller impact on health and even help with smoking cessation.

    Lee Seong-gyu, the director of the Tobacco Control and Education Research Center in South Korea, released the research findings on the "Current Status and Usage Patterns of E-cigarettes in South Korea" at a smoking cessation policy forum hosted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on the 20th. According to the study, sales of tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes in the domestic market increased from 78.7 million boxes in 2017 to 538.6 million boxes last year, a growth rate of 6.8 times. Only 292.6 million boxes were sold in the first half of this year (January to June), and it is projected that the annual sales volume will exceed 600 million boxes for the first time. In contrast, sales of traditional tobacco cigarettes decreased from 3.4447 billion boxes in 2017 to 3.0909 billion boxes last year, a decline of 10.3%. Tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes use rechargeable batteries to generate enough heat to inhale nicotine without producing smoke, unlike traditional tobacco that requires combustion.

    The survey shows that smokers generally believe that e-cigarettes have less adverse effects on health. According to a survey conducted by Lee Seong-gyu from November 7th to 17th last year, involving 8,000 respondents aged 20 to 69 nationwide, among those who use tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes, 26.6% believe that the "indirect smoking risks are relatively low". Furthermore, 18.2% believe that it has "a small impact on health" and 14.2% believe that it "helps with smoking cessation". However, among non-smokers who have never smoked, 16.5% and 11.5% respectively hold the views that tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes have "relatively low indirect smoking risks" and "a small impact on health". Director Lee Seong-gyu pointed out, "The tobacco industry's marketing and other means have spread unverified information claiming that e-cigarettes do not contain harmful substances. Therefore, when formulating tobacco control policies, various smoking behaviors need to be considered, not just traditional smoking."

    In 2018, the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety issued a report on the analysis of emissions from some domestically sold tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes, stating that "taking into account the results of international research such as the World Health Organization, it cannot be proven that tobacco heating non-combustible electronic cigarettes are relatively less harmful than traditional tobacco". The report also pointed out that they contain carcinogens such as benzo(a)pyrene and benzene, which are similar to those found in traditional tobacco and may cause various diseases."

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