Sustainable funding of health initiatives in Wonju, Republic of Korea via a tobacco consumption tax

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Abstract

Wonju is the first municipality in the Republic of Korea to fund the Healthy City project through municipal revenues from the local tobacco consumption tax. We investigated the process of the local tobacco consumption tax being approved as the main source of financing for the local Healthy City project. We also examined the sustainability and sufficiency of the funding by looking at the pricing policies instituted for cigarettes, smoking prevalence, cigarette consumption and revenues from local tobacco consumption as well as the budgetary allocations among programs in the city. The strong initiative of the mayor of Wonju was one of the factors that enabled the earmarking of the local tobacco consumption tax for the Healthy City Wonju project. He consulted academic counselors and persuaded the municipal government and the City Council to approve the bill. Despite the increasing price of cigarettes in Korea, adequate funding can be sustained to cover the short-term and mid-term programs in Wonju for at least 5 years of the mayor's term, because the smoking rate is persistently high. Analyzing the effects of strong leadership on the part of local authorities and the balance between revenues from the tobacco tax and the prevalence of smoking in the face of anti-smoking policies would be helpful for other countries and communities interested in developing sustainable Healthy Cities projects.

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