23 February 2019
Cigarette prices in Hong Kong are still not high enough to deter smokers, experts say. Photo: HKEJ
Cigarette prices in Hong Kong are still not high enough to deter smokers, experts say. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong urged to hike tobacco tax by 57 percent

The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health has suggested that the government should raise tobacco tax by a further 57 percent next year in a bid to discourage smoking and curb related diseases such as lung cancer, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.

The government doubled such tax in 2009 and last increased it by around 11.8 percent in February this year. The Council, however, felt that it’s not enough as locals’ purchasing power on tobacco is still rising, according to the report.

If the proposal is accepted, HK$60 (US$7.74) of tax is expected to be levied on each pack of 20 cigarettes, and the proportion of Hong Kong smokers is projected to fall to 9.6 percent from 10.7 percent, it said.

Professor Hana Ross from Emory University, who was entrusted by the Council to study the tobacco duty in Hong Kong, was quoted as saying that excluding inflation factors, tobacco price in the island has gone up only 25 percent since 1989, and that Hongkongers’ purchasing power on tobacco is higher than that of people in developed countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

Lisa Lau, chairman of the Council on Smoking and Health, also proposed to the government to expand the no-smoking areas to bus stations and pedestrian zones, and ban display and all forms of promotion of tobacco products. She also called for stronger regulations on sales of cigarettes and enhancing the budget for anti-smoking campaigns.

The Council hopes to bring down the smoking rate to 5 percent or lower by 2022.

Excessive tobacco tax, which will push cigarette prices higher, will only make smokers turn to smuggled products, Ming Pao quoted a spokesperson from British American Tobacco Plc. as saying. Sales of tobacco products are said to have fallen less than 10 percent in the first two months after the last tax hike in February, and are now reported to be at normal levels.

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