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Duty-free tobacco on its way out

duty free store

First published: February 24, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post


Instead of raising the tobacco duty further, the government will abolish the duty-free concession on tobacco products for people entering Hong Kong, says Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said on Wednesday during in his third budget address to the Legislative Council that the new measure was a response to public health concerns about smoking.

“I increased tobacco duty substantially by 50 per cent last year. This year, I propose the abolishing duty-free concessions on tobacco products for incoming passengers. But small amounts of tobacco products for people’s own consumption will be exempted,” he said.

Tsang said studies by the World Health Organisation, showed that increasing tobacco duty was an effective way to reduce smoking.

He said the tobacco duty in Hong Kong was currently quite low and accounted for only about 60 per cent of the retail price of cigarettes. This was substantially lower than the WHO recommend level of 75 per cent.

“The Food and Health Bureau will closely monitor the effectiveness of the various tobacco control measures this year.

“I will consider a phased increase in Hong Kong’s tobacco duty based on the bureau’s recommendations,” he said.

A spokesman for the I Smoke Alliance – a group including smokers and non-smokers – said although the financial secretary had not increased tobacco duty this year, he was worried Tsang might do it in future.“Smokers must be cautious when they buy duty-free cigarettes before they return to the city as this might become illegal.

“The alliance will continue to monitor the new measures,” he said on the group’s website.

The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health expressed its disappointment that Tsang did not raise tobacco duty this year.

Council chairwoman Lisa Lau said the government should consider an annual increase of at least 15 per cent.

To see the complete budget, click The Budget 2010-11

Written by Regina Leung

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