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The tobacco industry and electronic cigarette manufacturers enjoy a loophole in the legal definition of tobacco in South Korean law
  1. Jaehyung Kong,
  2. Sodam Chu,
  3. Kyunga Park,
  4. Sungkyu Lee
  1. National Tobacco Control Centre, Korea Health Promotion Institute, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sungkyu Lee, National Tobacco Control Centre, Korea Health Promotion Institute, Seoul 04554, Korea (the Republic of); wwwvince77{at}

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In response to stronger tobacco control regulation spreading around the world, the tobacco industry releases and promotes new, diverse products in order to maintain market share. The release of heated tobacco products (HTPs) in May 2017 and closed system types of electronic cigarette (e-cig) vapour products (eg, JUUL) in May 2019 have transformed South Korea’s tobacco market, given that these products have already captured around 11.4% of the market share as of September 2019.1

In South Korea, the definition of a tobacco product refers to what is manufactured in a state suitable for smoking, sucking, inhaling (aerosol), chewing or smelling, by using tobacco leaves as all or any part of the raw materials, according to Article 2 of the Tobacco Business Act.2 Based on the aforementioned act, while HTP sticks and e-cig liquid containing nicotine from tobacco leaves are both regulated as tobacco products, HTP sticks and e-cig liquid that may have nicotine from other parts of tobacco, such as tobacco stems and roots, are not regulated as tobacco products, nor are the devices to use with them. This might be a different view and definition from other countries, such as the UK, where smokers are encouraged to use e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid.

South Korea’s legal definition of tobacco products is abused by the tobacco industry and e-cig manufacturers. Since any …

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  • Contributors JK, SC and KP collected and analysed the tobacco industry activities under the supervision of SL. JK, SC and KP prepared the first draft of the manuscript. SL reviewed all of the drafts and helped prepare the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.