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Jolly, tobacco front smokes public again

It is an open secret that tobacco firms deliberately aid cigarette smuggling, for instance, by manufacturing excess cigarettes to flood the illicit market, primarily to keep their products at affordable pricing on the black market. That did not stop tobacco-funded campaigner, Richard Jolly, from trying to smoke the public regarding the illicit tobacco situation; in fact, he even accuses the Hong Kong police and customs of supposed inaction.

from Qi Luo of the Standard:

Cops accused in illicit tobacco poll

Seven in 10 people say it is easy for teenagers and children to get hold of illicit cigarettes, a poll shows.

Hong Kong United Against Illicit Tobacco, which is supported by Philip Morris Asia among others, also accused police of turning a blind eye to the sale of smuggled cigarettes in the territory.

The group commissioned market research firm Ipsos to survey 1,006 people last November and December.

It found 70 percent believed it was “fairly easy or very easy” for people under 18 to access illegal tobacco products.

About 64 percent agreed that black market cigarettes contributed to youth smoking due to lower prices and ease in buying without age verification.

Social worker Harris Har Man-kwong of Hong Kong Christian Service said illicit cigarettes are much cheaper, making it attractive for teenage smokers to find a way to buy them.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said in a TVB interview the number of Primary Four to Six students who smoke is increasing.

“We’re worried,” Chan said. “Most of current smokers started when they were teenagers.”

Chan said the Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Office will work with the Po Leung Kuk to fund non-smoking education at its kindergartens.

The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health urged the government to raise the tobacco tax up to 100 percent in the 2014-15 fiscal year, making the price of a cigarette pack HK$84.

It believes high tobacco duty will prevent youngsters from trying smoking for the first time.

The Ipsos survey, however, showed 90 percent believe the government should curb illicit cigarettes. Hong Kong United Against Illicit Tobacco convener and former policeman Robin Jolly said police have little incentive to crack down on the sale of smuggled cigarettes. He urged the government to effectively tackle the illicit cigarette trade before introducing any tobacco tax increase as it might inadvertently drive smokers to buy illegal cigarettes.

“We have to contain the problem before we consider raising tax and just making the problems bigger,” Jolly said.

A study released by Oxford Economics last year showed that more than 35 percent of cigarettes consumed in Hong Kong in 2012 were illicit. It estimated 1.8 billion illicit cigarettes, on which duty was not paid, cost the government HK$3.3 billion in lost tax revenue.

6 Feb 2014

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