Hard times for vaping in South Korea.

2020-12-04T12:08:13+01:00 December 4th, 2020|Regulations, World|0 Comments
Reading time: 2 mins

South Korea was once one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for e-cigarettes, attracting attention from major international makers. In 2019, the EVALI cases in the USA contribute to tighten the government’s position, which seriously questions the effects of vaping on health, and which plans studies that could lead to a total ban.

The market

As of June 2019, South Korea was the world’s No.2 market of heated vape products after Japan, worth $1.7 billion, according to Euromonitor, but liquid e-cigarettes are less popular, accounting for 13% of the tobacco market. Nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are classified as tobacco products, thus their sale is prohibited to minors (under 19 years). From 2015 smoking is forbidden in indoors places like restaurants and cafés. Non-nicotine containing e-cigarettes are considered consumer products.

The 2019 Health Minister warning and its consequences

At the end of 2019 the Health Minister Park Neung-hoo citing EVALI cases in the US advised people to stop using liquid e-cigarettes due to growing health concerns. Park said the government would speed up its own studies to determine if there was a scientific basis to ban sales of nicotine e-liquid. The results of the investigation were expected by June 2020.

A government spokesperson had added that if the investigation highlights significant risks, the government may revoke the sales licenses of e-cig manufacturers.

Only a day after the government warning, major convenience store chain GS25 had halted the sales of flavoured vaping products by Juul Labs and South Korean company KT&G. 

Subsequently, the South Korean Army had announced a ban on the use and possession of e-liquids on its bases.

The strong increase in excise duties

To date, excise duties on e-liquids are the sum of several contributions (health tax, consumption taxes, etc..) for a total of 1,799 won ($1.60 US) per milliliter; there is also a waste tax on disposable cartridges and pods of 24.2 won ($0.02 US) per 20 cartridges.

In September 2020, the Cabinet has approved a plan to revise the national health promotion law. This revised version would allow the government to impose 1,050 won/ml ($0.90) special health tax on liquid-type e-cigarettes, doubled from actual 525 won/ml.

The ministry of Health has already proposed a special consumption tax from the current 370 won to 740 won/ml.

The changes would take effect on the 1st of January 2021, upon parliamentary approval.