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Tobacco Opportunity Squandered

Opportunity squandered

Updated on Mar 05, 2008 – SCMP

John Tsang Chun-wah failed to use his budget to increase tobacco duty to protect community health and help pay for the burden of care created by disease caused by tobacco. He continued the recent tradition, of financial secretaries, of adopting a firm tobacco industry-friendly position, which facilitates the promotion of cheap tobacco to youth.

Monitor columnist Jake van der Kamp accuses me of failing to protect the pockets of the poor who generally have the highest prevalence of smoking (“Moralising on smoking is also a bad habit. Stub it out”, January 4). However, there is nothing more regressive than fostering an epidemic of disease and premature death among a vulnerable sector of the population, especially when it has its origins in children and adolescents. Applying higher tobacco duty isn’t “moral high-mindedness” as van der Kamp claims, but an essential duty of care towards young people.

It is clear that the treasury now dictates public health policy and refuses to apply fiscal measures even when they are clearly needed. It is able to do this regardless of the evidence-based advice of the Department of Health and the Food and Health Bureau.

As we struggle to contain the need and demand for health care perhaps the government auditor could now adjudicate on the bizarre incongruity of government actions.

Anthony J. Hedley, department of community medicine, University of Hong Kong

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