South Korea has proposed a steep 80% hike in cigarette prices to cut consumption in a nation with one of the world’s highest male smoking rates.┬áThe proposal would see the average price of a packet of cigarettes rise from 2,500 won ($2.42) to 4,500 won ($4.35) from January 1 next year.

The decision requires parliamentary approval, but Health Minister Moon Hyung-Pyo said it was necessary to counter what has become the “biggest threat to national health”.

Moon said his ministry predicted the increase would help cut tobacco consumption by 34% and raise annual tax revenues by 2.8 trillion won.

Around 44% of adult South Korean men are smokers, the highest rate among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ahead of Turkey, Greece, Estonia and Japan.