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Acting SFH on tobacco control

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Acting Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, after attending a radio programme today (December 24):

Reporter: The tobacco industry is not very happy with the Government’s proposal to make warning signs bigger on cigarette packages. Would the Government consider budging on its proposal? And also, under what circumstances will the Government consider imposing further measures to try to bring down the number of smokers in Hong Kong?

Acting Secretary for Food and Health: First of all, we have discussed this issue of increasing the size of the pictorial warning on cigarette packets since May 2015. There were deputations in the Legislative Council in July 2015 in which over 100 organisations attended. Most of them supported the Government’s initiative of increasing the packet warning size. The World Health Organization has suggested the larger the size of the pictorial warning on cigarette packets, the better or the more effective it is to decrease the number of people smoking. Therefore, from the statistics and evidence from different countries, we know that this is an effective tobacco control measure. So on the one hand, our packet (warning) size is now 50% and we have six different designs of pictorial warning. It hasn’t been changed since 2007, so it is almost ten years now. Therefore, we feel that at this point in time it is important for us to increase the packet warning size and also the number of designs from six to 12. The other issue is that there are also, obviously, countries that have gone even one step further, that is to go to plain packaging, i.e. 100% of the cigarette packet is already standardised and also (carries) a very big size of pictorial warning. Therefore, we think (our proposal) is already a balancing act, i.e. to increase the warning size to 85% and increase the number of designs. We haven’t gone to plain packaging yet. We felt that this is something that we can protect people from smoking. And also, it is shown that it is effective according to the evidence we collected from other countries.

Reporter: How about further measures?

Acting Secretary for Food and Health: For further measures, we always take a progressive and multi-pronged approach. We have just defined non-smoking area in the bus exchanges outside the eight tunnel portals in Hong Kong. Obviously there are other suggestions as to whether we would ban smoking at all bus stops or even on the streets. We will consider all these comments or suggestions, looking into the current tobacco control measures in Hong Kong, our smoking prevalence, our targets and also the related legislation.

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