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Make Tobacco Firms Pay Up

Updated on Apr 01, 2008 – SCMP

I could not agree more with Martin Brinkley (“Stopping causes of illness better policy than imposing ‘health tax'”, March 28) Tobacco is the only legal consumer product which kills its users and innocent bystanders when used as directed by its makers.

Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the world.

A University of Hong Kong study placed a value on the loss of productivity and life in Hong Kong due to smoking at 25 times the revenue received from tobacco taxation. Tobacco tax was last increased in Hong Kong in 1999. The World Health Organisation says increasing excise tax is the most effective method of reducing smoking levels worldwide; a 10 per cent increase in tobacco tax will reduce youth smoking by 7 per cent and overall smoking by approximately 4 per cent. Each year 1,324 people die of passive smoking here. The government has the taxation capability. If we prevent our youth smoking through tax increases there will be no need to treat the lethal devastating effects. In his RTHK interview the financial secretary said that if he increased tobacco tax, smuggling would increase thus casting doubt on the abilities of the Customs and Excise Department to handle this problem. This is a poor excuse for his failure to act. The government has a duty of care to the health of its residents and has yet again missed the opportunity to save lives.

If you relieve the major financial and manpower burden of treating smoking related illnesses, does this not make more sense than taxing non-smokers to pay for this treatment? The government should sue the big tobacco firms to recover the costs of treating smoking illnesses.

James Middleton, Clear the Air

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