E-cigarettes Tax Loophole in South Korea

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    The tax loophole surrounding synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes in South Korea has ignited significant controversy, with an estimated loss of 1.6 trillion KRW in tax revenue reported by “Tax Daily.” These products, not classified as traditional tobacco, evade both taxation and health regulation due to a legal definition gap, sparking concerns among the public and lawmakers alike.

    Legal Loophole and Tax Losses

    Despite sales exceeding 1 trillion KRW, synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes fall outside the purview of the “Tobacco Business Law,” escaping taxation and health regulations. This loophole not only results in substantial tax losses but also raises public health concerns due to the unregulated nature of these products.

    Youth Nicotine Addiction Risk

    The widespread popularity of synthetic nicotine products, particularly among youth, exacerbates the risk of nicotine addiction. Lawmakers are increasingly alarmed by this trend and advocate for the inclusion of synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes within the legal definition of tobacco products to ensure tax fairness and bolster public health protection.

    Legislative Efforts and Challenges

    A proposed “Partial Amendment to the Tobacco Business Law” by senior Health and Welfare Committee member Choi Hye-young aimed to rectify this issue by expanding the definition of tobacco to include synthetic nicotine regulation. However, slow progress and committee stagnation threaten the bill’s effectiveness, risking its obsolescence.

    Impact on Domestic Tobacco Industry

    The lack of regulation on synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes not only affects tax revenue but also poses a threat to domestic tobacco agriculture. Intensifying competition from synthetic nicotine products, coupled with tax exemptions, diminishes the competitiveness of local tobacco products, further complicating the issue.

    Calls for Government Action and Reform

    Lawmaker Kim Young-joo’s scrutiny of synthetic nicotine importation and usage during the national audit underscores the urgent need for government reform. Misinformation and smuggling activities exacerbate tax losses and pose significant public health risks, necessitating swift and effective regulatory measures.


    The unresolved legal status and taxation of synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes present a multifaceted challenge for South Korea. Government intervention and legislative amendments are imperative to address tax equity, market justice, and public health management concerns. As societal pressure mounts, stakeholders anticipate heightened attention to related legislative reforms in the near future, driving progress toward resolution.