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Attitudes of Korean smokers towards smoke-free public places: findings from the longitudinal ITC Korea Survey, 2005–2010
  1. Eunja Park1,
  2. Sung-il Cho2,
  3. Hong Gwan Seo3,
  4. Yeol Kim3,
  5. Hyun-Suk Jung4,
  6. Pete Driezen5,
  7. Janine Ouimet5,
  8. Anne C K Quah5,
  9. Geoffrey T. Fong5,6,7
  1. 1 Center for Food and Drug Policy Research, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, Sejong, Korea (the Republic of)
  2. 2 Department of Public Health Science, Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul, Korea (the Republic of)
  3. 3 Center for Cancer Prevention and Detection, National Cancer Center, Goyangsi, Korea (the Republic of)
  4. 4 Total Healthcare Center, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Seoul, Korea (the Republic of)
  5. 5 Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6 School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  7. 7 Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sung-il Cho; persontime{at}


Objective Prior to December 2012, restaurants in South Korea were required to implement only partial smoking bans. This study documents the changes in Korean smokers’ attitudes towards smoking bans between 2005 and 2010 and explores the effects of anti-smoking advertising as a correlate of support for total smoking bans in public places.

Design Longitudinal cohort study of Korean adult smokers.

Setting The data were derived from three waves (2005, 2008 and 2010) of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Korea Survey.

Participants The ITC Korea Survey respondents were a probability-based, nationally representative sample of Korean smokers aged 19 and older. The current analysis includes 995 smokers who participated in Wave 1 (2005), 1737 smokers who participated in Wave 2 (2008) and 1560 smokers who participated in Wave 3 (2010).

Primary and secondary outcome measures Changes in respondents’ awareness of secondhand smoke (SHS) harm, attitudes towards smoking bans and personal rules for smoking in private homes and/or vehicles were analysed. Correlates of support for smoking bans in public places were examined using generalised estimating equation regression models.

Results More than 80% of Korean smokers are aware of the harms of SHS. The proportion of smokers who support smoke-free restaurants or smoke-free bars increased twofold between 2005 and 2010. Smokers who were aware of the dangers of SHS were more likely to support a total smoking ban in workplaces. Noticing anti-smoking advertising or information was not significantly associated with support for a total smoking ban in public places.

Conclusions Korean smokers became more supportive of smoking bans in public places between 2005 and 2008. These results show that smokers’ attitudes towards smoking bans can change with the implementation of smoke-free policies, even in a country that has a high prevalence of smokers.

  • smoking
  • support for smoking bans in public places
  • anti-smoking advertising
  • smoke-free restaurants
  • smoke-free bars

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  • Contributors EP and SIC conceptualised the paper, performed analyses and wrote the manuscript. HGS, YK and H-SJ lead the ITC Korea Survey and managed the collection of data. PD, JO, ACKQ and GTF contributed in the revisions of the manuscript.

  • Funding The ITC Korea Project was supported by grants from the US National Cancer Institute (R01 CA125116), the Roswell Park Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (P50 CA111236) and the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare and Korean National Cancer Center (0731040-1). Additional support was provided to GTF from a Senior Investigator Award from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and a Prevention Scientist Award from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute. Additional support in preparing this paper was provided to University of Waterloo by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FDN-148477).

  • Disclaimer GTF has served as an expert witness on behalf of governments in litigation involving the tobacco industry.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the institutional review board of the National Cancer Center, Korea, and the Office of Research Ethics of the University of Waterloo, Canada.

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

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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