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Reply to Vines – Letters to the Editor, SCMP

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From: James Middleton []
Sent: Saturday, March 06, 2010 5:07 AM
To: ‘Letters to the Editor'; ‘
Subject: Reply to Vines

Your correspondent Stephen Vines (SCMP March 5) states ‘Business is booming in bars where a blind eye is turned to smoking. The crackdown has also led to an enormous increase in sales of counterfeit cigarettes and smuggled tobacco.’

Hong Kong laws need changing to fall in line with first world countries where the onus is on premises’ managers to enforce no smoking laws within or lose their licences ; the current legislation is deliberately flawed and has no such requirement. After the 50% tobacco tax increase last year the sale of duty paid cigarettes here dropped by more than 30% (3.79 billion in 2008 – 2.88 billion in 2009) whilst revenue from excise tax increased 2% above 2008.

Meanwhile the stepped up enforcement by Customs Department  against illicit tobacco increased arrests by 91% in 2009 above 2008 but found less seizures since the syndicates reduced volumes (109 million sticks 2007, 79 million in 2008 versus 59 million in 2009) for fear of being caught. Your correspondent should as a prudent journalist do some research before he continues to bitch and moan based on flawed facts and his stated ‘enormous increase’ is actually a significant decrease.

It is a blatant fact that the tobacco companies’ supply chains are the source of  their own illicit product coming back into Hong Kong  ; 60-70% of all illicit tobacco in Hong Kong in 2009 was found to be ‘genuine product’ as stated by the Customs Department whilst 30-40% was counterfeit.

Canada fined its tobacco companies C$1.5 billion and imprisoned tobacco executives for smuggling.

USA 12 years ago sued Big Tobacco and reached the Master Settlement Agreement to pay for the health costs of smoking on society.

The EU sued Big Tobacco and is receiving 12 and 15 billion Euros settlement respectively from Philip Morris and JTI plus any seizures of contraband genuine product in the EU result in agreed punitive fines on the respective products’ manufacturers forcing them to control their supply chain.

Hong Kong tolerates this fraud and tax evasion when they should be acting against the tobacco companies so that access to smuggled duty not paid cheap tobacco is not available to youth. If people want to smoke that is their prerogative but libertarian measures cannot permit their passive smoke killing the 1300 people per year that die here from the effects of sidestream smoke.

392 words

James Middleton

Chairman anti tobacco committee

Clear the Air

Tel 26930136

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