Koreans Scrambling to Hoard Cigarettes Before Price Hike

There has been much controversy over smoking in Korea, and how to decrease the rate among members of Korean society. The government has decided to increase prices as of January 2015, leading many Koreans to panic. Over the past month, many tried to buy up as many cigarette packs as they can before the price hike, causing scuffles with convenience stores, as the stores try to take advantage of the high demand to limit the supply of cigarettes.

Article from SBS:

south korea scramble hoard cigarettes price hike

Many stores are “Not Selling Cigarettes,” leading to disputes. The shadow of the cigarette price hike


Disputes are arising in stores all around Korea as people anticipate the January 1, 2015 increases in cigarette prices. To stop the panic buying, convenience stores are limiting the supply of cigarettes, leading to the disputes.

Reporter An Seo-han has more.


On December 22, at 2:00 AM, in Mia-dong, Seoul, forty year old Mr. Kim enters a convenience store to buy cigarettes.

Mr. Kim was furious when the employee told him “the cigarettes are all sold out,” and suddenly punched him.

It will take two weeks for the employee who was hit twice by Mr. Kim to recover.

Fellow Employee: We are also limited in how many packs of cigarettes we can obtain, so we can’t sell a lot. We are going to restock [the cigarettes] today.

On December 15, forty seven year old Mr. Jung entered a convenience store in Suyu-dong, Seoul to buy cigarettes, and within thirty minutes, had attempted to use violence, causing a disturbance that led the police to be called.

After the government announced the cigarette price hike, major convenience stores have put limits on the packs of cigarettes customers can buy to stop the panic buying. However, this has led to a series of disputes.

Kim Kyu-seop, Smoker: Here, they won’t even give you one box of a domestic cigarette brand. And over there, they give you only one box. It seems like people are trying to hoard cigarettes.

From the convenience store’s perspective, after announcing the price hike, whether the government immediately moved to enforce it or not, they should have anticipated this chaos and come up with plans to mitigate it.

Because of the hasty policy announcement that had no alternative, the distrust between consumers and convenience stores is only deepening.

Comments from Naver :


The best revenge would be for everyone to quit smoking.

mnb2****[Responding to above]

Friggin’ funny keke Smoker bugs, I beg you to take revenge keke Smokers who are between a rock and a hard place keke Don’t smoke, and the non-smoking rate goes up, and the president has an achievement to add to her legacy. Smoke, and you will seethe at the government for collecting taxes. This is like being a spectator across a river, watching a fire on the other side keke. Nukingly funny, keke.


If you go to the convenience store now, they will say they have no cigarettes and are all out, but on Jan 1, it will be stocked up again keke.


They definitely need to change the packaging on cigarettes. So that people will stop scrambling to hoard them…


Even at the convenience store near my house, they are not selling cigarettes. That’s a good thing.


Rather than the customers, the business owners seem to be in the midst of panic buying.


To prevent hoarding in retail stores, for higher priced cigarettes change the package design and sell them. We should stamp out stores that sell cheaper priced cigarettes at prices 2,000 won more expensive than normal.


This chicken government is the worst.


I should give a round of applause to my ajeosshi [older man, “my husband” in this context]. He used to smoke two packs a day, and now whe visits the health clinic, and is in the midst of quitting through determinedly chewing gum. It’s been 7 weeks.


The cigarettes that disappeared will make a reappearance on Jan 1st. There won’t be any problems like panic buying if they sell the old models at the old prices and sell the new models at increased prices.


It’s the fault of this incompetent government.

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  • RegisterToPost

    Surprise surprise, worthless ajeossi acting like worthless ajeossi. They shoulld have hiked the price 4x and get rid of that disgusting habit.

    • notelastic

      Price hike aint gonna do anything, only more money in government coffers. Econ 101 price elasticity of demand.

      • A Touch of Sin

        Or in this case inelasticity.

        • notelastic

          do you actually read posts before replying to them?

          • A Touch of Sin

            Are you trying to make some point? Or simply curious about my literary habits?

          • notelastic

            Well, you’ve essentially repeated my comment…so I’m rather curious as to why

          • A Touch of Sin

            I clarified your post to point out the price is inelastic, demand is less responsive to price changes; as opposed to elastic, in which demand is sensitive to price changes. You only referenced to the concept.

            This is a common problem, people often use overly technical terminology/jargon or reference concepts with the assumption their audience understands how the concept applies to the topic (you are guilty of the latter). Often this is done because either the speaker is ignorant of his audience’s level of understanding, or the speaker wants to appear knowledgeable.

            Believe me, I know from personal experience that it is difficult to translate from science/engineering or business-speak to colloquial English/Chinese.

      • Rutim

        > only more money in government coffers

        They won’t get more money. Ever heard about Laffer curve? But I’m 100% sure the contraband will get much more money from cheap Chinese cigarettes.

        • Ken Morgan

          Cigarettes are not subject to the normal supply/demand curves as they are addiction goods. Exactly the situation you describe has happened in the UK. Cigarettes from shops £6-10 a pack. So you get people doing runs to Europe specifically the Microstates like Andorra or Lichtenstien where there are low taxes. Customs officials search cars very thoroughly.

          • x1sfg


            Or you could take a page from the marijuana industry. My home state in the US produces most of the tobacco production and it doesn’t seem like a finicky plant to harvest. I don’t know how easy it is to grow marijuana, but if the cost of growing is nothing compared to the price of legal cigarettes or the cost of smuggling overseas, I could see people doing it. At least for their own personal consumption.

        • x1sfg


          Go through the open financials of any municipality, state, or country that has a tax on tobacco. Stop using buzz words from 100-level econ courses you have no understanding of. It’s obviously clear you have no idea how the real world works.

          What you should be doing is selling loose cigarettes in Times Square and have two jackass NYPD see you doing it

        • kon

          Um, Chinese cigarette would be subject to the same taxes…unless you mean smuggled cigarettes? That just means SK has a shitty police force who arnt doing their jobs…

          and yes, the only thing these taxes do is increase revenue for the government, in fact its often puts governments in a position whereby increase effort to discourage smoking would hurt their own purse.

    • x1sfg

      I agree it’s a disgusting habit, but it’s a freedom of choice you fascist.

      It’s also not going to deter smoking drastically, but it will fatten politicians’ wallets

  • post.human

    If you smoke check out The Easy Way To Stop Smoking by Allen Carr.

  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    You could just quit smoking. That is an option you know.

    Or just hoard em. Yeah, that too…

    • UserID01

      I’ve never developed the habit, but my former boss told me his breaking point was when he started smoking IN THE SHOWER. He would be in the shower and have one hand out to take a drag on his cigarette. One day he realized how fucking ridiculous that was, and decided to make a serious dedication to quit.

      Now, imagine how addicted you have to be to consider smoking in the shower. There will be plenty of people desperately addicted enough that no matter the price, they’re going to shell out for cigarettes. I think unless they start going for $20 a pack, there probably won’t be any significant drops in usage.

      • b

        At that price you’ll have illegally brought in smokes being sold at half the price and people will be buying those instead.

        • Az Ze

          Here in NZ where a pack of ciggys is over $22 no one does that or grows their own tobacco etc. people just keep smoking and wasting money on that disgusting habit. I hate walking around Korea and having to dodge people smoking on the streets.

          • Boris

            Could be due to location. I’ve seen people bring in (to the UK) smokes from other countries and sell them on. Sell them cheaper than in the shops but still make a healthy profit.

        • val kilmer

          It really doesnt happen from what i’ve seen. I’ve lived in Australia and New Zealand. Both places cigs are between 18,000-22,000 won. Ive never heard or seen reported cases of illegal cigarettes. Actually, not true. Some Chinese try to bring them in their suitcases. But nothing outrageous. The rate of smoking in both countries has dropped as the price has increased. Its also seen as a kind of low class thing to do now. A habit reserved for the uneducated and old school smokers who just cant quit. Tobacco isnt like alcohol or weed or other harder drugs, which can give the user enough of a high/buzz/whatever, so that people would go to the effort of bootlegging them. First time i got drunk i thought i was the king of the world. First time i got stoned i thought in ways i never had before. First time i smoked a ciggy i coughed and felt a bit sick.

          Putting the price up will not create this massive black market. Of course there will be some underground stuff. But with increased prices and more education the numbers will fall off.

          • Ewnerd Nasalo

            So you say, and honestly I agree. Still, a cigarette junky is like any other junky. If a couple of guys are willing to haul off and punch convenience store workers over it before the price hike even starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if some other sketchiness begins to crop up such as mom and pop shops selling loosies.

            Then there is my preferred method: ecigs. A good vaping setup will deliver the same if not better experience with little of the unfortunate health side effects. Problem is the cost. It might be less than ideal for those who are hard up.

          • x1sfg

            I wouldn’t attribute it to the price hike. Empirical studies show that taxes only marginally decrease smoking. If the prices get high enough, there will be a black market.

            I’d attribute the change in your country as a result of education on the hazards as well as a cultural shift. In the US a half century ago, more people smoked proportionally. You’d see vending machines selling loose cigarettes. It was distinguished to smoke a pipe. But with increased health education and a change in culture, it decreased smoking in the US except in certain communities… Like US submariners swabbies, or intel geeks. Contrast that with Europe or Asia where it seemed like every other male smoked. I personally see more tobacco chewing and dipping than smoking, yet I have never seen it in Korea or many European countries except on US posts. Cultural difference

          • Aus Custom Officer

            that has much more to do the continued education and anti-smoking efforts by the government (such as graphic warning on packaging and now plain packaging) than price.

            Also Arabs are more likely to smuggle tobacco into the country than Chinese, as they prefer the much higher quality stuff produced in their own countries. and most of the stuff Chinese bring in are for private consumption anyway

        • UserID01

          I’ve seen it done. Cigarettes in NYC are… I think up to $12.50 a pack. Which is fucking ridiculous, and I don’t even smoke. I’ve heard of people taking day trips out of state, or even going onto Indian reservations to get cheaper cigarettes. Somehow, someway, they WILL find a way to get their fix. I remember my mom even buying a carton of cigarettes on our way back from St. Croix because the entire carton was cheaper than buying a single pack back at home. It’s bananas. The addiction is stronger than a desire to save money or be healthy. They’ll bitch and moan about it, but will still reach into their wallet to buy if they want it.

        • UserID01

          Oddly enough, I don’t really hear of many people smoking bootleg cigs. They might go for out of state cigarettes of the same brand because the taxes are cheaper, but full-on bootlegs? Nope. I wonder if they can actually tell the difference?

  • bigmamat

    I was wondering why Korea doesn’t have a problem with alcohol consumption the same as it does for cigarettes? Does anyone know? Both will eventually kill you if you do enough of it, both are a “burden” to society. I say alcohol is more dangerous and more a societal burden than cigarettes. Why not jack up the price of soju?

    • Ewnerd Nasalo

      Dude… there would be riots.

      Alcohol is certainly a societal burden. I think it is thought of being less-so in Korea due to it’s social lubricating qualities. As a drug the effect is stronger. It is useful for those medicating to forget about their shitty lives, as well as for those who are attempting to have personal connections in a heavily hierarchical society. An MH thread recently was talking about sacred cows in a different context, but in Korea booze is a sacred cow.

      • bigmamat

        Look I’m no prude. I’d be the first one to say that getting high is fun, “socially lubricating” and something that humans just love to do. What I do find amusing and deeply hypocritical is the “state” trying to determine which substance is acceptable and which is not. Every single one of them involve accepting certain “risks” for society and for the individual.

        • Chucky3176

          One explanation could be that smoking not only kills that smoker, it also kills those around him. So in that sense, smoking is far more dangerous.

          • bigmamat

            So you ban it in public places and leave everyone alone to smoke in private. Makes a lot more sense and is far less hypocritical than to tax it or ban it altogether.Although I’m not convinced that smoking is more dangerous considering I’ve never heard of someone beating the shit out of their wife because they smoked a cigarette or even pot for that matter. You see a lot of people do violent shitty stuff under the influence of alcohol.

          • Chucky3176

            Smoking is not banned. I am not sure what you’re talking about. They should also raise the prices of drinks too, it’s tax to cover for all the social problems and strain on public healthcare they cause.

          • bigmamat

            I didn’t think they had banned smoking but I do think it’s fairly hypocritical of a government to decide which poison their population should be using by either taxing it so high people can’t afford it or banning it altogether. Like I said in my first statement. If Koreans were really concerned about the cost to society of people’s “sins” they wouldn’t be looking at just cigarettes.

          • Rozu

            But most statistically (i think there’s an article on this from the economist), a lot more people die from actions of drunks than smokers. Here in the UK, most crines and damages are related to alcohol, fights, drink driving that kill whole families, friends stabbing each other etc. It’s more of a burden on the healthcare if you include victims now than smoking related illness.
            Smoking increase the risk of certain illness that’ll kill you but it’s still a small increase compared to the car fumes and pollution we breath in everyday. Unless it’s in the old days where you’re forced to work in an office full of smokers day in day out. .. besides the way smoking related death is recorded, even if you die of an heartattack at 85, if you’re a smoker, it still counts as smoking related.

            Smoking is bad but let’s not forget the devastating effect of alcohol addicts as well just because we occasionally drink as well.

        • Sid Driver

          Don’t forget all those wonderful websites that the “state” has deemed no longer acceptable to be viewed in Korea.

          -The more a government controls what you do, the less free you are.

          • bigmamat

            Amen to that….next step is to brutally enforce said laws….

    • Chucky3176

      Good ideal, actually.

    • FYIADragoon

      Because when I stand next to a drunk guy I only need to watch out for the puke. A smoker is actively harming my lungs every second he’s around me. They have the right to do this stupid habit in the privacy of their own home if they’re single (or have a spouse pathetic enough to put up with it). Having children should also merit a ban on household smoking though. It’s just too troublesome to regulate so the most efficient solution is to just massively hike up the prices. Helps the government treasury as well.

      Also, there’s a reason countries like Korea drink so much. Life is tough. I assume the whores would be getting a ton of more service if you cranked up the prices on alcohol along with smoking.

      • bigmamat

        Koreans make their own fucking lives miserable I have zero sympathy for them if they aren’t willing to change their culture. They whine and complain yet do nothing about it. So this is your answer, Koreans have shitty lives….so they need to drink. I’m going with that as my reason too then….

        • Jo

          >They whine and complain yet do nothing about it.

          Seems a bit ironic coming from you…

          • bigmamat

            Do you know me? I don’t recognize you. I was just wondering why you found my statement ironic coming from me since I can’t recall complaining about much of anything online.

      • BSDetector

        The problem with people like you is that you actually think you’re saying something intelligent. You should just stay quiet and be a good little drone.

        • FYIADragoon

          I’m not saying something intelligent, I’m saying something obvious. 17 days late to the party, piss off.

  • commander

    Few would dispute the effectiveness of a staggering increase of ₩2,000 in cigarette price in cutting the nation’s smoking rate.

    The problem is that the cigarette price is hiked aimed at generating extra tax revenue in the name of reducing the number of smokers, a political expedient that the government conjures up when it is faced with a growing fiscal deficit but President Park already declared there is no increase in corporate, income tax.

    Some might say that even if the price increase is intended to bring in more tax revenue for the government, isn’t it good to slash the smoking rate?

    This question has been arguably the most portent case for the higher cigarette price.

    But we should remind ourselves that smoking is an individual choice, like drinking and others. If the government really cares about public health, why hasn’t it imposed more tax on alcohol in a nation where a bottle of soju–working people’s favorite– is priced the lowest among the OECD countries?

    Another problem is that the government appears to have no plan to use an increased revenue to reduce smoking rate.

    Newly created tax revenue should be injected into helping smokers quit the habit if the government’s really serious about the high smoking rate.

    And while the non smoking areas grow, places for smoking have no proper ventilation and other amenities.

    In a liberal democracy, to the extent non smokers have the right to be spared offensive smoking odor, people have the right to smoke.

    All things considered, the government’s anti smoking campaign is nothing more than extracting more money from smokers.

  • Brett

    Only read the top comments, and not all of the Korean comments that were translated, but a lot of Koreans were speculating that convenience stores were hoarding their cigarettes so they could sell them for effectively double the price. Especially the small mom and pop stores that don’t scan anything into computers.

    A lot of people got angry because they felt the stores were taking advantage of the price hike.

    • Sid Driver

      I have been wondering about this myself as well to be honest. I frequent the local convenient stores for a snack or beverage and have noticed the slow decrease of stocked cigarettes over the past few months.

      As a store, if you are low on stock you just order more and it comes. It’s not like cigarette companies are telling the stores that they can’t have more packages of cigarettes to sell… I’m sure there’s a lot of hoarding going on both by stores and consumers.

  • jonny

    they should start hoarding chemo drugs too

  • Smith_90125

    Drug addicts often resort to violence to feed their addiction, whether breaking into houses to steal, muggings, or violence against innocent clerks in stores.

    It would almost be worth going back to visit and laugh at the buttheads going through withdrawals. Almost, but not entirely.

  • Sid Driver

    Cigarettes are so f*&%ing disgusting… I hate when I go anywhere outside and as I try to breathe in the fresh air I get a mouth and nose full of that toxic crap. Not only is it disgusting but you people who smoke stink. Even as I navigate around my classroom while teaching I can smell in coming off of the students clothes. Cigarette smokers are pretty rank too. You can smell in on their breath, in their hair, on their clothes. My biggest pet peeve is travelling anywhere and having someone who just smoked a cigarette sit down next to you and that’s all you can smell for your journey.

    • BSDetector

      One of my pet peeves is stupid people like you. I guess we’re both stuck having to deal with the situation though.

      • Sid Driver

        lol trolling or you really think I’m stupid? Are you one of those stinky cigarette people that everyone has to deal with? Don’t hate me just because you hate yourself.

        • WHITE GUY

          Shut up ESL teacher. Go back to Kentucky to your cotton farm.

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