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November 22nd, 2011:

Tobacco tax set to rise


The government is preparing a draft law to increase the tobacco tax to be introduced after the ban on indoor smoking comes into effect next year, said Francis Tam

The government is preparing to raise tobacco tax, to be introduced after the ban on indoor smoking comes into effect from January 1, secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, said yesterday at the Legislative Assembly.
In Macau, the tobacco tax was last updated in 2009 and is currently at MOP 0.2 per cigarette or MOP 4 per 20-cigarette pack. But the Health Bureau has promised to increase this figure, lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong recalled.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Hong Kong the tax was raised this year to HKD 35 per packet, lawmaker Lee Chong Cheng stressed. And In Australia a cigarette packet can cost as much as HKD 120, he added.
This “fiscal gap” does nothing to help tobacco control, lawmaker Ho Ion Sang said, and can in fact encourage “actions of illegal trade” between the two SARs. Both lawmakers called on the government to raise the tax to a similar level to the one in Hong Kong, “as soon as possible”.
The Administration is preparing a draft law to increase the tobacco tax, Francis Tam confirmed yesterday. However the official gave no timing for when the measure could be implemented. “We will schedule that work with the legislature,” he said.
In Macau, tobacco companies are against a tax rise, “claiming it would only encourage smuggling and would do nothing to help youngsters lose the habit,” Lee Chong Cheng acknowledged. He also admitted that the tobacco tax “is a pittance for the government”.
But “experience tells us that, bar a total ban, the most effective measure to reduce the number of smokers is through a tax raise,” Lee emphasised.
With just a little over a month before the indoor smoking ban comes into effect, Ho Ion Sang also said more promotion is needed, not only among locals but also for visitors. He said authorities should boost activities such as the ones aimed at schools, offices and restaurants while also improving signage on non-smoking areas and handing out flyers at Macau’s border crossings to make sure tourists know of the new restrictions.