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Use Tax Cash For Tobacco Control

Updated on Mar 12, 2009 – SCMP

While applauding the 50 per cent tobacco tax rise, discerning Hongkongers will ask how the extra money is to be spent.

It is already apparent that the public will need more services to help people quit smoking.

Some designated tobacco control agencies, like the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, should receive more resources other than the dwindling government subvention, for their ever-more important mission.

In the United States, that is exactly how the administration is paying for its health bill during the current recession. When President Barack Obama signed an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Programme on February 4, Congress agreed to raise federal cigarette taxes to help pay for the extra coverage. It is expected that the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes will increase by 160 per cent.

We have a golden opportunity to beef up the public health capacities in tobacco control. Earmarking tobacco tax for this purpose is a sensible option.

Dr W. Y. Wan, director, Public Health Consultancy Network

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