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Activists fume over thought of cigs tax hike

HK Standard

Hiking the tobacco tax further will only worsen cigarette smuggling.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hiking the tobacco tax further will only worsen cigarette smuggling.

That is the warning from the I Smoke Alliance, 20 of whose members visited the Central Government Offices to present a petition banner carrying the photos of over 1,000 people holding a sign that said “stop tobacco price hikes.”

The group urged the government to respect the rights of smokers and not increase tobacco taxes again in the budget to be tabled next month by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

They also said trade in illicit cigarettes went up after the tobacco tax was raised by 50 percent in 2009 – the first of three consecutive years of hikes – widening the price gap with packs available in the mainland, for instance. A pack of 20 typically costs HK$50 here.

Convener Mer Lee Chor-kwan called the tax hikes unreasonable and slammed the government as narrow-minded.

Lee said: “The tax hike could not reduce the number of smokers, but it turns out there are now more illicit cigarettes on the market.

“Not only are these more hazardous to health, but dealing in them is illegal.”

Raymond Ho Man-kit, convener of concern group Momentum 107, said people are increasingly buying illicit cigarettes online. “Increasing tobacco tax only allows illegal groups to gain big money through selling illicit cigarettes,” Ho said, urging the government to educate the public about quitting instead.

Shirley Chan Sin-yee, a waitress and non-smoker, slammed “unreasonable” tax hikes as an incentive to quit, saying such moves ignore the problem sparked.

She said: “A tax hike will encourage more people to be involved in illicit cigarette trade, just like parallel traders.” WINNIE CHONG

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