A Secret Place to Eat Cloud Snack in Korea

Have you heard about the term Cloud Snack? Cloud Snack (구름과자; Goo-reum-gwa-ja*) is the old Korean slang referring to the cigarette itself or the smoke coming out when smoking. In Korea, you can often see people smoking on the streets and many Koreans worry about passive smoking through eating “cloud snacks”.

*Goo-reum : cloud, gwa-ja : snack

Did you know that 1 out of 5 Koreans smoke a cigarette?

Although 1 out of 5 Koreans smoke, the social stigma around the smokers in Korea is not really good. They are sometimes treated as if they did something wrong, particularly when they smoke while walking. People might hold their nose and frown at them. A behavior of “smoking” might even ruin celebrities’ impression, especially if they are a woman or young (it’s getting better though!).

Why do so many Koreans hate cigarettes that are loved by all over the world?

1. Health is most ubiquitous reason why Koreans don’t like cigarettes. (Seriously, Koreans really do worry about their health.) Koreans frequently go to different types of hospitals to check up if they feel sick even a little. Yearly medical check-up (including gastroscopy) is general.

2. Passive smoking is another reason. Koreans think the smoke from a cigarette takes a toll on their health (so basically it’s about health). Maybe it’s because there are so many narrow alleys with dense population.

3. Smokers’ impolite behavior also causes many Koreans to not like smoking. Quite many smokers smoke in no smoking areas, spit and throw cigarette butts on the ground.

People smoking in no smoking area.

Cigarette butts thrown away on the ground

A Korean smoking a cigarette inside a bus in early 1990s.

When did many Koreans start hating smoking?

Before 1995, Korea was a “smoking” country that people could smoke everywhere: a bus, train, subway, restaurant, cafe, office, etc. However, under the enactment of the National Health Promotion Act in 1995, Korea began to implement a full-fledged smoking cessation policy to regulate smoking. The biggest policy was increasing no smoking areas. After 1995, the government gradually blocked smoking areas all over the country. And today, people can’t smoke anywhere.

moking booth that you can rarely find.

Then, where can smokers smoke in Korea?

More than 80% of smokers in Korea complain that there’s not enough smoking area. If you are traveling to Korea, it might be quite difficult to find places to smoke!

Where people CAN smoke:
Smoking booth or places that has “Smoking Area” sign, which you’ll rarely find. (Good news! There’s an indoor smoking area in PC rooms.)

❎ Where people CAN’T smoke:
Anywhere that has “No Smoking Area” sign. Outdoor no smoking areas are designated by local governments so it might be a bit confusing. Some of the

???? Where people ACTUALLY smoke:
No smoking areas, streets, alleys, rooftop of the buildings, in front of restaurants/cafes, outdoor parking lots, and more. You’ll find so many people smoking outside, but no one smokes inside (like house, office, hotel, etc.).

Trivia Facts

  • The smoking rate of Korean adults is 21.5%. Among them, 35.7% are men and 6.7% are women (2019, Ministry of Health and Welfare).
  • 6,200 smoking areas versus 282,600 no smoking areas in Seoul. A rate of smoking area in Seoul is 2.2% compared to no smoking area.
  • Those who smoke in no smoking areas will be fined up to 100,000 won (100 dollars).
  • Cigarette price is approximately 4,500 won (4.5 dollars). That ranks 57th worldwide.

????Today’s Question for UoH friends????

How do people perceive “smoking” in your country?

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