Tobacco duty in HK must be raised to encourage smoking cessation
Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), together with over 200 organizations from various sectors and nearly 30,000 students in Hong Kong, advocate to Financial Secretary for raising tobacco tax to at least 75% of the retail price in financial year 2011-2012 in order to prevent smoking among the youth and encourage smoking cessation.
According to the analysis from World Bank, in some high income regions and countries like Hong Kong, the demand on tobacco products drops 4% for every 10% increase on the price of each pack of cigarettes. From Article 6 of the “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)” of World Health Organization (WHO), price and tax measures are an effective means of reducing tobacco consumption, particularly to the youth. Since China has signed FCTC, Hong Kong is responsible to raise the price of the tobacco products by raising tobacco tax to effectively reduce and prevent citizen from smoking.
World Bank suggested that the amount of the tobacco tax shall be 66% to 80% of the marked price of the cigarettes whereas WHO recommended that the respective percentage shall be over 70%. Ms Lisa LAU, Chairman of COSH, pointed out that the amount of the tobacco tax in Hong Kong is just 62% of the cigarette pack, which is generally affordable and does not meet the minimum level suggested by either World Bank or WHO. COSH advocates to Financial Secretary for raising tobacco tax to at least 75% of the retail price in financial year 2011-2012 so as to meet the standard as suggested by World Bank and WHO.
In fact, it is observed that the intention to quit after the increase of tobacco tax in 2009 was increased immediately. According to the figures provided by Department of Health, there were in average only 12 people calling the smoking cessation hotline daily in 2008. However, the day after the announcement of the financial budget in 2009, the number of people called the hotline for cessation service sharply raised to 90 people. Furthermore, the total number of people called to the hotline 10 months after the announcement on 25 February 2009 almost tripled the total number of calls received at the same period in 2008.
In November 2010, COSH invited primary and secondary school students to support raising tobacco tax. We received nearly 30,000 wishes from students in just couples of weeks. Most of them hope that the increase of tobacco tax could generate stronger motivation to help their family members quit smoking. Students from Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Primary School brought their “Smoke-free Wishes” to the press conference and put it in the huge wish box on stage. COSH will send all the “Smoke-free Wishes” to the Financial Secretary to present the yearning from students for smoke-free environment.
Moreover, COSH also mobilized support from over 200 organizations from various sectors, including medical and health, education, academia, social welfare, women’s group, sports, arts, conservation, professional bodies and many other groups. All of them actively responded to support the proposal, which illustrates the strong wills of establishing smoke-free Hong Kong from the community. Some representatives of the organizations voiced out at the press event to indicate their full support to the proposal.