Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Smokers light up in protest at tobacco tax rise plan

Ng Yuk-hang
Feb 12, 2010

Smokers lit up outside the government headquarters yesterday in protest against a proposed tobacco tax increase, saying the tax was a further erosion of their freedoms.

They also claimed that second-hand smoke does not kill, a point which was flatly rejected by a health professional.

Ten members of the I Smoke Alliance marched to the Central Government Offices in a bid to persuade Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah not to raise the tobacco tax further when he delivers his budget on February 24.

Surrounded by policemen, they puffed away outside the government headquarters, which bans smoking throughout its entire premises except in some designated outdoor areas.

“A packet of cigarettes is already very expensive for us, and a large part of the money goes to the government,” convenor Lee Mer said.

She said with a smoking ban which now covers almost all indoor areas in Hong Kong, smokers could only puff away in “hidden corners”, impinging on their right to smoke.

“People see us as terrorists these days, they avoid us whenever they see us smoking,” she said, adding that there was no evidence that second-hand smoke could kill. “Even if it does, people don’t die immediately, unlike in car accidents caused by drink-driving.”

She said the government should instead heavily tax alcohol consumption. Smoking was a way to relax and people should respect smokers.

But University of Hong Kong chair professor of community medicine Anthony Hedley said the group’s argument was “misinformed”.

“If they care to look at worldwide evidence, they should know that the lethality of second-hand smoke is indisputable.”

He said while the group was correct that alcohol tax should be levied to discourage drink-driving, it was irrelevant to the issue of smoking control. Tobacco tax should be further increased to deter smokers, especially the young, from smoking.

“It is impossible to create an environment for people to smoke without harming others. Freedom to smoke does not equate to freedom to harm other people.”

He said cigarettes were still too cheap compared with the health-care costs that resulted from smoking and second-hand smoke.

The smokers’ alliance was formed two months ago, Lee said. Its Facebook website showed that it had about 400 supporters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>