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Raise tax on tobacco and make smokers pay for health costs

I support Gauri Venkitaraman’s plea for bans in public areas where the permeation of cigarette smoke is harmful for passers-by or those trying to enjoy the outdoors (“Smoking in public leaves even non-smokers in Hong Kong facing serious health risks [1]”, July 11).

Non-smokers in proximity risk having their asthma flare up. Curious toddlers could become poisoned by ingesting carelessly discarded butts.

The fire contagion risk posed by still-burning cigarette ends is well known during the height of Australia’s bush-fire-prone sizzling summer and hot summers elsewhere.

Less smoking means fewer discarded butts posing a fire hazard. Another reason to impose smoking bans is to prevent adverse lifestyle role modelling for impressionable children.

From a public health perspective, raising tobacco sales tax is likely to reduce daily cigarette consumption and, more importantly, dissuade adolescents from taking up smoking. The cost disincentive of a higher tax holds the potential to improve the community burden of heart and lung disease that consumes avoidable health-care outlays.

It’s about time smokers who adopt unhealthy life habits subsidised the huge expense incurred in treating the acute exacerbation of chronic lung disease, pulmonary community rehabilitation as well as stents and bypass surgery required to alleviate coronary artery disease. Smokers have an addiction requiring an external agency to help them give up.

Imposing higher taxes on fast food and alcohol offers opportunities to improve public health related to “diabesity” (diabetes plus obesity), alcohol-related trauma and interpersonal violence. If we can extend sales tax disincentives to fast food and alcohol, then claims that a tobacco tax discriminates against smokers cannot be justified.

Joseph Ting, associate professor, School of Public Health and

Social Work, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2103457/raise-tax-tobacco-and-make-smokers-pay-health-costs

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Clear The Air Request to Members to Show Support for 85% Graphic Health Warnings

Dear Clear the Air members and interested readers/researchers

Background

This is an urgent request for support for the Hong Kong Government policy on upgrading the 2007 graphic warnings from 50% to 85% coverage of the area, doubling the number, and adding a quitline number – not that far off plain packaging.

Opposition from the vile and heinous child addicting tobacco industry has been intense, particularly as HK is seen as an exemplar for the Asia-Pacific region, with an effect more far-reaching than just the 7 million who live here.

The industry and their paid front groups are bombarding Government and Legislative Council with letters, and it would be very helpful and save lives if you could sign the (sample) letter below and send to Legco before 17th January 20917 when the important meeting will take place to discuss this important health prevention measure.

Send the email, you do not have to be a permanent resident of Hong Kong.
…………………………

Date: 13th January 20917

Panel on Health Services
Legislative Council
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China
panel_hs@legco.gov.hk

Re: 85% Graphic Tobacco Pack Warnings in Hong Kong
I/we support the Hong Kong government proposal to upgrade the current graphic pack warnings, to 85% coverage as outlined below.

I AGREE that my submission be made available to the media as per Legco requirements and the public and be uploaded onto the Legislative Council website.

Yours sincerely,

Signed:

Name:

Title:

Organisation:

Contact email/verifiable details/:

Briefing paper from the government to Legco:
LC Paper No. CB(2)386/16-17(05)
DETAILS OF THE PROPOSAL
The Proposal

3. At present, the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) Order (Cap. 371B) stipulates that the health warning should cover at least 50% of the two largest surfaces of the packet or retail container of cigarette, cigar, pipe tobacco and cigarette tobacco in accordance with the prescribed forms and pictures. The existing batch of health warning pictures has been in use since 2007. The Government now proposes to change the prescribed forms of health warnings and the indication of tar and nicotine yields on the packet and retail container of cigarette and relevant tobacco products.

4. We propose to amend the prescribed forms (including specifications) of the health warnings, the size and number of the health warnings and messages for the packet or retail container of cigarettes and tobacco products under the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) Order as follows –
(a) the area of the graphic health warning shall be of a size that covers at least 85% of two largest surfaces of the packet or the retail container;
(b) the number of forms of health warning will increase from six to
twelve;
(c) the following health warning message is to be included in the
existing statement “HKSAR GOVERNMENT WARNING” / “香
港特區政府忠告市民” –
“QUIT SMOKING FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS” /
“請為你的下一代戒煙”; and
“QUITLINE: 1833 183” / “戒煙熱線:1833 183”;

(d) the indication of tar and nicotine yields should be printed on a side adjacent to a typical flip-top lid of a cigarette packet, excluding the portion which forms part of the lid and the two largest surfaces, presented in a conspicuous place of such side of
the packet.