SEOUL: South Korea will ban all indoor and outdoor smoking in public places starting in 2011, to substantially reduce the country's smoking rate, the government said Wednesday, reports Yonhap news agency. The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said the move aims to bring down the smoking rate among men in the country from 47 percent at present to 20 percent in the target year.

Seoul has prohibited smoking in large buildings for several years but has not taken similar steps for outdoor smoking even in areas where large numbers of people gather. Smoking has been cited for causing various forms of cancer and other life-threatening diseases, and could put a strain on the economy by causing a rise in medical outlays down the line. Secondhand smoke is also a problem as it endangers the health of non-smokers, according to Yonhap.

The ministry added it will take measures to allow regional governments to implement anti-smoking policies to make it more difficult for people to smoke in public places, and push forward a concerted campaign at schools and military installations across the country to get people to stop buying cigarettes.
Despite some reduction in the number of smokers among the general population, the number of students and soldiers who smoke has not gone down.

It said posters and pictures highlighting the health risks associated with smoking will be placed on cigarette cases, with support to be offered to companies that implement programs to get workers to quit smoking.