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February 27th, 2012:

The truth from Big

‘‘A phony way to show sincerity, as we all well know’’: tobacco industry lobbying against tobacco control in Hong Kong

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nothing changed, it just shows what really goes on

14 feb 2012

Clear the Air says: This pre-2011 Budget newsclip below is an example that the Tsang administration involving Henry Tang and himself has pandered to big business and ignored their responsibilities under the WHO’s FCTC Treaty binding Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Administration in their 2012 budget made no increase in excise tax on tobacco even though the important U19 age group was shown to have increased its smoking prevalence in 2011 and evidence that HK retail prices were less than half of Australia ,Ireland and New York.

Now 16 days after the 2012 Budget we find that Tsang and his wife were entertained in Macau on the yacht of Hong Kong Tobacco Company Ltd tycoon Charles HO Tsu Kwok in further complete and utter disregard for the FCTC Treaty guidelines on interaction with the tobacco industry  and its obvious conflict of interest.

Ng Yuk-hang
Feb 14, 2011

Anti-smoking activists say government officials breached an international health guideline by meeting tobacco companies ahead of next week’s budget.

They say this violated the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which states governments should protect public health policies from the interests of the tobacco industry.

The government is under pressure from doctors, health groups and the anti-smoking lobby to raise the tobacco tax. The consensus seems to be for a rise of at least 75 per cent of the retail price, from 62 per cent. This would add about HK$5 to a pack of cigarettes but still leave them among the cheapest in the developed world.

Public health academics will submit a statement to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah today in protest at the meeting. They want a full disclosure of what was discussed.

“What is the tobacco industry trying to lobby for ahead of the budget?” asked Professor Judith Mackay, an adviser to the World Lung Foundation and a policy adviser to the WHO. “Since so many health groups have advocated a tobacco tax increase this year, it will be extremely suspicious if tobacco tax is not raised to 75 per cent in the budget. We will then have to look if there were other influences.”

About a dozen members of the Tobacco Control Concern Group – which comprises manufacturers, retailers and newspaper vendors – met government officials on February 8. Officials from three government departments were present: Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, the Food and Health Bureau and the Customs and Excise Department.

Mackay said it was a violation of Article 5.3 of the convention, which states that “in setting and implementing public health policies with respect to tobacco control, parties should act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.

According to the WHO’s guideline in implementing Article 5.3, governments should only interact with the tobacco industry when “strictly necessary to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products”. Whenever possible “interactions should be conducted in public”.

Mackay said nothing was known about the meeting and she is demanding a full disclosure of the proceedings.

The chairwoman of the Tobacco Control Concern Group, Deanna Cheung Kin-wah, who is a senior executive at British American Tobacco, said there were similar meetings every year. “I have been in this business for 10 years, and every year we would give our opinions on the budget.” She said under the convention, governments were not forbidden to meet tobacco companies, “only we have to do it in a transparent way”.

“The atmosphere of the meeting on February 8 was friendly. It was just a normal dialogue in which we hoped our voices were heard.”

A spokesman for the financial secretary said that during the process of drawing up the budget, the government would listen to opinions from all sides, including political parties, lobby groups and chambers of commerce.

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said it was always the government’s policy to discourage smoking. “The group requested a meeting with the Treasury and so a meeting was arranged. It was just to listen to opinions from different interest groups.”

Between 1990 and 2002 the government raised tobacco tax nine times. In 1991 it raised it by 200 per cent, only to reduce it to 100 per cent two months later. The tax was frozen from 2002 to 2008. In 2009 Tsang raised the tax by 50 per cent “for public health reasons”.

Copyright (c) 2011. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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