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Burden Of Care Created By Disease Caused By Tobacco

A letter sent to the SCMP by Anthony J Hedley, Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong on the 29th Feb 2008.

The Editor
South China Morning Post

Dear Sir

As expected John Tsang Chun wah failed to use his budget to increase tobacco duty to protect community health and help pay for the burden of care created by disease caused by tobacco .He continues the recent tradition, of a succession of financial secretaries, of adopting a firm tobacco industry friendly position,protecting brand value and directly facilitating the promotion of cheap tobacco to youth.

Your columnist Jake van der Kamp accuses me of failing to protect the pockets of the poor who generally have the highest prevalence of smoking(Post January 1 2008). However there is nothing more regressive than fostering an epidemic of disease and premature death among a vulnerable sector of the population,especially when it has its origins in children and adolescents.Applying higher tobacco duty isn’t “moral highmindedness” as Van der Kamp claims but an essential duty of care toward young people.

It is clear that the treasury now dictates public health policy (or lack of it)and refuses to apply fiscal measures even when they are proven to be needed.They are able to do this regardless of the evidence-based advice of the Department of Health and the Food and Health Bureau.

As we struggle to contain the need and demand for health care perhaps the government auditor could now adjudicate on the bizarre incongruity of government actions.

Anthony J Hedley
Department of Community Medicine
University of Hong Kong

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