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June 16th, 2011:

Tobacco tax passes after bumpy ride

The government on Wednesday saw its controversial bill to raise the tobacco duty by 41.5 percent (or HK$0.50 a cigarette) pass through third reading in the Legislative Council after heated debate.

Thirty-three voted for, 8 against the bill, with 12 abstentions.

The major supporting votes came from the Democratic Party and the Civic Party.

Pro-establishment parties – Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions – abstained from voting.

This increase came after a massive 50 percent rise in tobacco duty in 2009.

The tobacco duty took effect by virtue of a public revenue protection order on Feb 23, the same day when the tax increase was announced.

Had the tax increase been vetoed, the government would have had to refund to cigarette importers and distributors.

Defending the government’s case, Secretary for Food and Health York Chow said the purpose of the tobacco duty increase was to protect public health.

Apart from tax the increase, Chow said the government will increase tobacco control, enhance rehabilitation services and public education to encourage people, especially young people, to smoke less or quit smoking.

The government will subsidize agencies to run for rehabilitation services, while the Hospital Authority will also provide drugs for rehabilitation for free, he said.

Despite the current tax increase, tax only constitutes 70 percent of the cigarette price, which is still a distance from 75 percent advised by the World Health Organization, he said.

Quoting government statistics, he said the number of young smokers decreased by 10 percent after the 2009 tax increase, while the demand for rehabilitation services was also on the rise.

Chow rejected the suggestion that tobacco duty increase would prompt smokers to buy illicit cigarettes, saying the government is determined to crack down on illicit cigarettes.

As to the proposal for a phased tax increase, he argued that a higher increase is a bigger incentive than a phased increase for smokers to smoke less or quit smoking.

DAB lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong, a smoker for over 40 years, said the tax increase will place a heavy financial burden on the poor smokers.

He also worried the tax increase may affect the livelihoods of over 30,000 newsstand operators.

Albert Chan from the People’s Power said elderly, low-income smokers will have financial difficulty buying cigarettes after the tax increase, slamming the government for neglecting the needs of the underprivileged.

But health services constituency lawmaker Joseph Lee Kok-long said the tax increase will help people to quit smoking.

China Daily

LEGCO Voting on Dutiable Commodities (Amendment Bill 2011) 15 June 2011 Legco Chamber

See who opposed the preventative health measure tobacco tax increase legislation

Download PDF : Legco15June2011Taxcfm

Tobacco industry targets our children

To: Letters to the Editor, The Australian
Subject: Response to Imperial Tobacco “Nanny State” ads
Date: 16/6/11
Tobacco industry targets our children
“Nanny State”? Give us a break, tobacco industry.
You know children are your main target for “recruitment” (= addiction).
You know 140,000 Australian schoolchildren smoke at least weekly, thousands taking it up each year – and that typically they start just before turning 16.
You know the “new smokers” referred to as marketing targets in thousands of your industry’s own documents are essentially a euphemism for children. After all, when you kill over half your long-term customers, you have to find new ones.
You know the independent research evidence points strongly to plain packaging making your deadly product less appealing to teenagers – taking some of the glam out of it, drawing their attention more towards to those uncool health warnings.
You know all this. But you go on associating your product with pop music, sport and fashion – just the things you know will appeal to teens.
And you try to bully and deceive our governments out of adopting any health policy – tax rises, display bans, plain packs – that might reduce “new smoker” uptake.
Tobacco industry, we sincerely hope your expensive campaigns are a waste of your money. It will mean you have a bit less to spend on targeting our children.
Stafford Sanders
Protecting Children from Tobacco coalition (42 organisations)
June 16, 2011
tel.(02) 9334-1823; m. 0412-070-194
153 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo 2011
Protecting Children from Tobacco coalition, 42 NGOs at
Action on Smoking and Health Australia
Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia
Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare
Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies Australian and New Zealand Head and Neck Cancer Society Australian and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science Australian Childhood Foundation
Australian Council of Social Service
Australian Council of State School Organisations
Australian Council on Smoking and Health
Australian Education Union
Australian Foster Care Association
Australian General Practice Network
Australian Lions Drug Awareness Foundation
Australian Lung Foundation
Australian Medical Association (NSW)
Australian National Council on Drugs
Australian Parents’ Council
Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
Baptist Union of NSW
Cancer Council Australia
Catholic Health Australia
Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Tobacco Control
Children’s Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research
Cystic Fibrosis Australia
Early Childhood Australia
Families Australia
Heart Foundation
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
National Asthma Council Australia
NSW Council of Churches
Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia
Public Health Association of Australia
Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
Rural Doctors Association of Australia
Save the Children Australia
SIDS and Kids
Smarter than Smoking
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand