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Levy Increase Not The Answer

Updated on Mar 05, 2009 – SCMP

The desire to curb teenage smoking seems to dominate government officials to such an extent that they overlooked that the taxes on tobacco amount to regressive tax.

Smokers, many of whom are lower on the financial totem pole, are already reeling in this economic crisis and will bear the brunt of yet another ill-conceived tax policy. When prices of cigarettes are much higher than on the mainland illegal smuggling ensues and there have already been press reports that this is happening.

Past cigarette tax rises have not arrested the increase of smokers in Hong Kong. Reckoning with the futility of the policy has been deferred by a government influenced by lobby groups.

As many smokers will tell you giving up smoking and replacing it with a salubrious habit takes tremendous determination.

We should be lending sympathy to them and not harbouring scorn bordering on retribution.

The government and the lobby groups in this economic crisis should be managing the welfare of all Hong Kong citizens. People on low incomes should be receiving aid and not be paradoxically subjected to a levy.

Raising the cigarette tax to curb teenage smoking is a handier excuse for evading a less appealing remedy to an intractable problem.

Similar to preventing high school pregnancies curbing teenage smoking is the responsibility of schools and parents that entails effort and time.

To think that raising the cigarette tax will magically lower teenage smoking is akin to the admission that manipulating the price of condoms will have an effect on teenage sex.

Jack Teh, Clear Water Bay

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