Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

August 23rd, 2011:

Associations urge tobacco tax duty


While local anti-smoking associations slam the tobacco tax for being too low, street vendors say the increase may hurt their business

Two local anti-smoking associations urge the government to raise the tobacco tax “as soon as possible”, in order to make prevention more effective. The Health Bureau said the new tax will be ready by the time the new tobacco ban goes into effect in January 2012.
Currently, each cigarette pack in Macau is taxed at a rate of 4 patacas, 20 cents for each cigarette. In Hong Kong, the government has increased its rates by 41.5 percent in February. A pack of cigarettes is now priced at HKD 50, 70 percent of which represents tobacco tax.
“Tobacco prices in Macau are far too cheap,” director-general of the Smoking and Healthy Life Association of Macau, Samuel Chan, told the Macau Daily Times.
He suggested cigarette prices in Macau “should be similar to Hong Kong, if not higher”. Therefore, Chan called on the government to “seriously pushing it as soon as possible.”
“According to the experience of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, taxation on tobacco has been proved to be one of the most effective means for prevention,” Chan recalled.
“Surveys from the WHO [World Health Organisation] also show that the number of people quitting smoking have increased after taxes have been raised,” he stressed.
Director-general of the Smoking Abstention and Good Health Association, Johnny Au, also believes “Macau has lot of room to increase taxes compared to Hong Kong.”
He urged the government to find a way to raise tobacco taxation in order to put Macau in line with Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Lawmaker Paul Chan Wai Chi and member of the New Macau Association, which has been strongly advocating a tobacco ban in the city, told the MDTimes that taxes should double, but warned that Macau “cannot be compared with Hong Kong in this regard, because it depends on local residents’  purchasing power”.
“A tobacco tax hike may provoke tobacco smuggling and the authorities need to enhance supervision of this industry,” the pro-democrat pointed out.
Au added that the raising of taxes would only be effective to encourage low-income people to quit smoking. “Higher income people will continue to smoke,” he said.
In May this year, the Health Bureau submitted a proposal to the Economic Services to increase tobacco tax. In a written reply to MDTimes it said it is “expecting to announce the new tobacco tax when the new law becomes effective”.
The new law, which will come into force on January 1, 2012, bans smoking in most public places and indoors, except casinos. Gaming operators will be required to set aside dedicated smoking areas of up to 50 percent of their total public area from January 2013.
Meanwhile, Chan Wai Chi suggested that the government strengthen promotion and education in order for “people to understand that smoking not only harms their health, but also indirectly affects others as well”.
The two associations also ask the government to not only rely on taxation and the new anti-tobacco law, but also put forward more measures.
“We must have a whole package of measures for anti-smoking prevention, as taxation is only effective for low-income people,” Au insisted.
In addition, Samuel Chan suggested the government to put more money for promotion of healthy messages to young people.

Tobacco company loses bid for plain packaging documents

BAT is fighting the Government’s plan for plain packaging of cigarettes.


Cigarette giant British American Tobacco (BAT) has lost a Federal Court bid to access Commonwealth documents on the plain packaging policy.

The Federal Government is moving ahead with plans to introduce the scheme by next July.

British American Tobacco has accused the Government of blocking access to government legal advice that suggests the scheme could be unlawful.

The company has argued the documents, which date back to the mid-1990s, raise questions about the scheme’s compliance with international trade and tariff obligations.

The court this morning dismissed the company’s application

Northern Ireland sets tobacco display ban for spring

23 Aug 2011. Northern Ireland’s health minister Edwin Poots said a ban on displaying cigarettes in shops will not begin until next spring at the earliest, reports the Belfast Telegraph.
Poots also wants to ban vending machine sales from 1 February 2012. He said removing displays of tobacco products from view in shops, and preventing children from accessing them through vending machines, would “build upon measures already in place aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking”.

In March 2009 the Assembly approved the ban on the display of tobacco items in shops in Northern Ireland. Then health minister Michael McGimpsey wanted to introduce the prohibition in 2010 but the Democratic Unionist Party argued for a delay to 2013 to give retailers time to fund changes to their premises. (pi)