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Cigarettes too cheap in Hong Kong: group

cheap cigarettesFirst published: February 22, 2010


Health groups in Hong Kong on Monday called for a sharp rise in tobacco duty as a study revealed cigarettes in the city are among the cheapest in the developed world.

Buying 1 000 cigarettes of one brand in Hong Kong costs just 217 US dollars (about R1 673) compared to 409 US dollars in New York and 503 US dollars in London.

Those cigarettes would also cost significantly more in Melbourne (277 US dollars), Singapore (361 US dollars), Paris (361 US dollars) and Dublin (577 US dollars), the survey found.

The study by health groups in Hong Kong was released ahead of Wednesday’s budget when financial secretary John Tsang is under pressure to push up the price of cigarettes in the city of 7-million.

An open letter to the Hong Kong government signed by health advocates including World Health Organization advisor Judith Mackay says a 10 percent price rise could save thousands of lives.

“There are about 750 000 smokers in Hong Kong,” the letter said. “One in two smokers is killed by disease caused by tobacco. Each 10 percent rise in price will prevent at least 18 000 deaths.

“Effective taxation must be 75 to 80 percent of the retail price (of cigarettes) whereas currently in Hong Kong, it is only between 61 and 66 percent.”

Smoking in bars and restaurants and many public places in Hong Kong was banned from January 2007 although a powerful lobby group won temporary exemptions to the ban for many venues.

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