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February 26th, 2010:

2010 budget speech: Tobacco budget highlights

tobacco tax

Tobacco Control

133. For public health reasons, I increased tobacco duty substantially by 50 per cent last year. This year I propose to abolish the duty-free concessions on tobacco products for incoming passengers. To facilitate law enforcement, small amounts of tobacco products for own consumption will be exempted. The Food and Health Bureau and Customs and Excise Department will announce the details. This measure will take effect on completion of the legislative process.

134. Studies by the World Health Organization have clearly shown that increasing tobacco duty is an effective means of tobacco control. I am aware that tobacco duty in Hong Kong currently accounts for only about 60 per cent of the retail prices of cigarettes, some way below the 75 per cent recommended by the World Health Organization. The retail prices of cigarettes in Hong Kong are also lower than those in some international cities. The Food and Health Bureau will closely monitor the effectiveness of the various tobacco control measures in the year ahead. I will consider a phased increase in Hong Kong’s tobacco duty based on the Bureau’s recommendations.

Click here to read 2010 Budget: Clear The Air’s reply regarding the government’s plans for tobacco control.

What do you think about the government’s proposal? Voice your comments after the jump.


Smokers have lower IQs, says study

iqFirst published: February 25, 2010

Source: New Zealand Herald

Cigarette smokers have lower IQs than non-smokers and the more a person smokes, the lower his IQ, according to a new international study.

The study of more than 20,000 Israeli military recruits found young men who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day or more had IQ scores that were 7.5 points lower than non-smokers.

The research has been backed by Auckland University expert Dr Marewa Glover, who said it was proof of a successful campaign by the tobacco industry to target those with lower IQs by using devices such as cartoons and free samples.


Duty-free tobacco on its way out

duty free store

First published: February 24, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post


Instead of raising the tobacco duty further, the government will abolish the duty-free concession on tobacco products for people entering Hong Kong, says Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said on Wednesday during in his third budget address to the Legislative Council that the new measure was a response to public health concerns about smoking.

“I increased tobacco duty substantially by 50 per cent last year. This year, I propose the abolishing duty-free concessions on tobacco products for incoming passengers. But small amounts of tobacco products for people’s own consumption will be exempted,” he said.

Tsang said studies by the World Health Organisation, showed that increasing tobacco duty was an effective way to reduce smoking.


Smokers decry ban on duty-free tobacco

duty-freeFirst published: February 25, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

More cash to enforce ban, but no tax rise for now


There was good news and bad for smokers in the budget, with the financial secretary scrapping the duty-free tobacco allowance for cross-border travellers but holding off from increasing tobacco duties.

Travellers will be limited to bringing into Hong Kong free of duty only one open pack containing no more than 19 cigarettes. At present they can bring in three packs (60 cigarettes).

Anti-smoking groups welcomed the scrapping of the allowance, but smokers said it would not motivate them to quit.

The government hopes the measure will be tabled for Legislative Council debate by April, and implemented by the third quarter.


French in uproar over oral sex anti-smoking posters

oral sex tobaccoFirst published: February 24, 2010

Source: The Independent

A poster from an anti-smoking campaign by Les Droits des Non-fumeurs

French advertising companies are often criticised for using sexual images to sell everything from designer spectacles to sweetcorn. Now, for the first time, a controversy has erupted in France over the use of sexually suggestive posters as a deterrent.

A campaign to discourage young people from smoking shows male and female teenagers kneeling in front of a man, as if being forced to have oral sex. A cigarette takes the place of the man’s sexual organ. The caption reads: “Smoking is to be a slave to tobacco.”

The campaign, which was devised for a pressure group supporting the rights of non-smokers, has been attacked as “scandalous” and “potentially counter-productive” by feminist and pro-family campaigners.

The advertising agency behind the posters says only a shock campaign can halt the rise in smoking amongst 13 to 15-year-olds in France.

Marco de la Fuente, the leader of the project for the BDDP et Fils ad agency, said: “The old arguments – tobacco is bad for you – don’t work any more. The message here is that tobacco is a form of submission. In the popular imagination, oral sex is the perfect symbol of submission.”


Treasury escapes bill for billions in tax refunds

British American TobaccoFirst published: February 23, 2010

Source: Times Online

The Treasury may escape a bill for billions of pounds in tax refunds after winning the latest round of a closely followed test case against British American Tobacco (BAT).

The UK’s Court of Appeal said today that companies seeking refunds for taxes that were unlawfully imposed by HMRC must do so within six years of the taxes being collected.

The finding was part of a wider judgment in a long-running battle in which BAT, the tobacco group, has challenged HRMC’s previous policy of taxing dividend payments from foreign subsidiaries.

The Treasury’s liability has been estimated at up to £5 billion. However, accountants said that the Court of Appeal’s ruling will dramatically reduce the size of any payout, even if it ultimately loses to BAT.

“It’s a big win for the Government,” Bill Dodwell, a tax partner at Deloitte, said. “It limits their liability in a massive way.”