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An open letter to the Financial Secretary to increase tobacco excise tax

Cigarette tax is very effective on redusing smokers number.

Cigarette tax is very effective on redusing smokers number.

The School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, and Clear the Air urge the Financial Secretary of the HKSAR government to progressively and consistently raise tobacco excise tax for

public health protection in Hong Kong, especially to protect the present and future health of children from heart, lung and many other serious diseases.
Tobacco costs Hong Kong 7000 lives and $5.3 billion per year. Any responsible government should protect the people’s health and wealth by reducing cigarette use through comprehensive tobacco control including higher tobacco tax. Moreover, Hong Kong is obliged to do so under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which China is a signatory. The 50% rise in tobacco duty in February 2009,
though long overdue, was a welcome start but it needs to be boosted annually.

In a letter to the LEGCO Panel on Health Services on 17 November 2009, Clear the Air Anti-tobacco Committee chairman Mr. James Middleton compared the Euro retail price of 1000 cigarettes between Hong Kong and other high income cities:
Hong Kong €159, Vienna €180, Melbourne €203, Copenhagen €214, Helsinki €220, Frankfurt €235, Paris €265, Singapore €265, New York €300, London €369, Dublin €423. In other words, cigarette price in Hong Kong is only 60%, 53% and 43% of that in Singapore, New York and London, respectively.

Professor AJ Hedley, Chair Professor of School of Public Health stressed that: “Tax now constitutes 66% of the retail price of cigarettes in Hong Kong, but this tax incidence is only at the lower end of the range of countries where tobacco consumption has fallen. Every 10% hike in price will suppress cigarette use by 4%, with stronger effects among young people. It is widely accepted that this brings enormous public health benefits. For every two nicotine addictions prevented, one life is saved. An expectation of annual escalation in cigarette price may further encourage smokers to make an advance decision to quit”.

Professor Lam Tai-hing, Director of School of Public Health added that: “Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death, and tax level has a major impact on consumption and hence tobacco deaths. Now that this powerful fiscal tool that could save thousands of lives is at the disposal of the Financial Secretary, he must act decisively to protect public health and specially the present and future health of children. To catch up with the retail price of cigarettes in Singapore, New York and London in 5 years, our tobacco tax must increase annually by at least 11%, 14% and 18%, respectively”

The Chinese version of the open letter.

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