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Dr Judith Mackay’s wish list for HKG

Judith Mackay, 2011 WHO Senior Advisor  World Lung Association Senior Advisor

  1. Sound and planned tobacco tax policy: We are all utterly exhausted year by year having to fight for tobacco tax rises. Let’s get a 10 year plan, or at least a 5 year plan for yearly increases, which also takes inflation into account. Cigarettes here are considerably (28%) cheaper than in Singapore and we need a much more robust tax policy.
  2. Smuggling and counterfeit: Many (7% of all genuine contraband seizures in 2009 and 2010) “duty free” cigarettes are finding their way into the marketplace, so Customs and Excise need to exercise much stricter controls over the sale of Duty Free, independent of the franchised retailers. 60-65% of all contraband seizures in 2009 and 2010 were GENUINE tobacco products. The manufacturers need to be compelled to control their supply chains. It is openly known that this business is propagated by the tobacco companies. They are evading taxation and conspiring to commit criminal offences – use the OSCO laws against them.
  3. Beef up dealing with the criminality of smuggling with mandatory minimum sentences, treating it as a serious crime that is addicting and subsequently killing our youth.(OSCO Ordinance)
  4. Make all public areas tobacco free, including outdoor areas of restaurant and pubs whether roofed, 50% enclosed or otherwise.  Put onus on licencees to enforce ban or face first a single warning, and then second, lose the premises’ licence for at least 2 years (like alcohol sales to minors).
  5. TCO office: Increase staffing for enforcement of smoke-free areas. It is woefully understaffed compared with Macau, for example.  Macau has 70 officers for 514,000 population whereas HKG has only 99 for 7.2 million. The TCO need to be able to patrol areas as a preventative measure rather than the present where they only act several days later and based on written or telephone complaints.
  6. Packaging: Change the pictorial packet warnings every 1-2 years; we are overdue a change in the pictorial health warnings and, again, it should be in the ordinance that these are changed regularly, as smokers tune out after a while.
  7. Packaging:  Introduce plain packaging (as Australia has done) within the next 3 years.
  8. Ban counter display in shops: and move to under the counter. ALL retailers whether shop or news stand must be LICENSED and licensing enforced.
  9. Increase quitting facilities and assistance and make these free to anyone who wants to quit. These premises must be open before and after normal work hours and in accessible locations transport wise.
  10. Investigate tobacco industry funding and connections of a) political parties – currently not required to divulge funding sources and b) Libertarian front organisations that have sprung up recently in HK, especially those with charitable status.  Revoke the charity status of such front organisations as they are being used to benefit Big Tobacco rather than beneficial to the public of Hong Kong.

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