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New tobacco tax to help smokers quit


Health Bureau director Lei Chin Ion was yesterday at the Horta da Mitramarket distributing signs to be posted at all locations where the smoking ban will be enacted

Starting today smokers will pay at least MOP 6 more per cigarette pack, as the new tobacco tax duty comes into effect. The tax rise will encourage smokers to quit, the Health Services Bureau (SSM) assured, while vowing to continue increasing the tax in the future.
According to the law approved last week, the tobacco tax will increase by MOP 0.5 for each cigarette, in order to be in line with the ban on smoking in public places that comes into effect from January 1.
Taxes on tobacco in Macau will be MOP 10, around 38 per cent of the retail price, which is still a far cry from Hong Kong prices, where one pack costs MOP 50, MOP 35 of which are taxes.
For this reason lawmakers and smoking prevention associations said the increase was too low.
The SSM disagrees: “There are several steps to encourage smokers to quit. One of them is to increase the tobacco tax,” they said in a statement.
Other measures include restrictions on the sale of tobacco and a ban on tobacco vending machines. Tobacco brands and producers will also no longer be allowed to advertise, sponsor public events or launch promotional campaigns.
The bureau also pledged to boost its stop-smoking service, as well as to enhance promotional awareness and the enforcement of the anti-smoking law.

Price benefits

The SSM released figures that show that more than 200 persons quit smoking every year after the tobacco tax rise from MOP 1 to MOP 4 was implemented in May 2009. After this increase the number of smokers that ditched tobacco increased from 194 in 2008 to 223 the following year.
In 2010 the number of individuals undergoing the stop-smoking treatment amounted to 421. So far there were 1,272 people who resorted to this service and more than a third (36 per cent) have managed to stay away from tobacco for at least six months in a row.
Most of the people who seek help are men between 50 and 59 years old. Only 12 per cent of the stop-smoking service users are women.
“Most of those who fail to quit do so because they don’t have a strong will to stop smoking. Some smokers are influenced by friends and a small number continue smoking because of stress at work,” the bureau said.
The first stop-smoking service was created in November 2006 at the northern district’s health centre and is currently available in all public health centres.
Media reports showed that vendors increased the tobacco price last week, even before the law was approved. Shopkeepers’ claim sales dropped by one third since the announcement of the increase in tobacco tax.

No rush

“We have received information of some complaints” about tobacco prices, SSM director Lei Chin Ion confirmed to Macau Daily Times. If people notice there are unlawful practices they should report the case to the Economic Services Bureau, he added.
Lawmakers also asked the government to introduce stricter rules for duty-free cigarettes, claiming that people were likely to start buying tobacco in mainland China where it is much cheaper.
Both visitors and locals are allowed to enter Macau with as many as 10 packs of tobacco, while in Hong Kong it’s forbidden to enter with more than 19 cigarettes.
But Lei Chin Ion said so far there was no sign of any rush to buy tobacco in mainland China. “We have kept in touch with Zhuhaiauthorities and they say no increase in the sale of tobacco products was registered,” he said.
Also starting next month, smoking will be prohibited indoors and in some other public places. Only casinos and bars will enjoy a grace period of one and three years, respectively.

The SSM director was yesterday at the Horta da Mitra market distributing official signs that must be posted in all locations where the ban will be enacted.

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