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Smokers fume at call for 100pc rise in tax

Qi Luo and Kevin Cheng

8 Jan 2015

The tobacco tax should be doubled to encourage smokers to quit and discourage young people from picking up the habit, urges the Council on Smoking and Health.

This would increase the price of a pack of cigarettes to HK$93, from HK$55.

COSH chairman Antonio Kwong Cho-shing said the government should raise the tobacco tax by 100 percent in the next fiscal year, beginning April, to drive down the prevalence of smoking currently at 10.7 percent to single digits in one to two years.

Kwong said: “There are 645,000 smokers in Hong Kong, and 6,000 deaths related to smoking annually. So we’re very concerned with the overall figure.”

COSH commissioned the University of Hong Kong to conduct a study of 2,419 smokers and non- smokers between May and September last year.

Overall, respondents thought the retail price of cigarettes should be increased to HK$106 on average to effectively motivate smokers to quit.

But 800 who currently smoke said the price should be increased to HK$171, higher than the price suggested by 800 ex-smokers (HK$123) and 819 who never smoked (HK$98).

The survey also found 73 percent supported raising the tax on tobacco annually, compared with 65 percent in 2013.

More than 65 percent said the 11.8 percent rise in tobacco tax in the last fiscal year, or about 20 HK cents per stick, failed to get smokers to stub it out.

A spokeswoman for the Smoke Alliance said the suggestion angers smokers and citizens who have the right to choose whether to light up or not. It is not like they are on illicit drugs.

Vincent Wong, 25, who has been smoking for nearly 10 years, said any increase in the tobacco tax and price of cigarettes will not deter smokers.

However Wan Kin-man, also 25, said a rise in the cost of cigarettes will discourage him from smoking.

“It will definitely become very expensive to smoke. But this will only increase the number of illegal tobacco vendors and make it more prevalent,” Wan said.

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