The South Korean government will open an anti-smoking research institute next month, where the ingredients found in tobacco will be studied and the harmful effects of smoking will be assessed. Data gathered at the institute will likely to be used in the government’s ongoing lawsuit against tobacco companies over compensation for health care costs linked to smoking-related diseases.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the institute will be set up at the KCDC’s headquarters in Osong, North Chungcheong province, at the end of October.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the institute’s major objectives include analyzing the ingredients and additives in cigarettes and cigarette smoke, as well as assessing the damage of secondhand exposure. Cigarette makers in South Korea are currently required only to disclose the amount of tar and nicotine present in their products, keeping secret what other ingredients or additives—such as menthol and sugar—are included.
“Such studies have so far been conducted by private institute or the tobacco makers, often facing criticism for lacking credibility,” a KCDC official was quoted as telling the Korea Times. “Government-level studies so far have focused on epidemiological research, but the new institute will concentrate on discovering any direct correlation between smoking and health hazards. Study results will be used for setting up anti-smoking policies and as evidence for the ongoing suit.”
In addition to studying the types and amounts of ingredients—such as nicotine, tar and ammonia—found in cigarettes sold in Korea, the institute will also examine samples of hair, urine and blood to determine the impact of secondhand smoking and its connection to cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases, and developmental disorders.
The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) filed a compensation suit last year with the Seoul Central District Court against three tobacco companies, KT&G, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco Korea. In the suit, the NHIS demanded 53.7 billion won ($45 million) to recoup the medical costs the organization covered for 3,834 smokers who suffered from cancer of the lungs or larynx.