Raising Tobacco Tax for a Smoke-free Hong Kong
2013.11.19To protect the health of public, encourage smoking cessation and prevent children and youth from smoking, Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) advocates the Government for raising tobacco tax substantially in 2014-15 fiscal year. Ms Lisa LAU, Chairman of Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) says, “To motivate more smokers to quit and further reduce the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong, COSH advocates the Government for increasing the tobacco tax by 100% in 2014-15 fiscal year, making Hong Kong the world’s first developed region to lower the smoking rate to single digit.”
The existing tobacco tax in Hong Kong accounts for only 65-68% of the retail price which still falls below the minimum percentage (70%) recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The tobacco tax has not been raised for two consecutive years. Ms Vienna LAI, COSH Executive Director remarks, “The tobacco tax was increased by 50% and 41.5% in 2009 and 2011 respectively. As a result, the smoking prevalence dropped from 12% in 2009 to 10.7% in 2012. The usage of smoking cessation hotline of the Department of Health also increased significantly right after the announcements of the recent two rounds of tobacco tax increase. This is a solid proof of the effectiveness of increasing tobacco tax in encouraging smoking cessation.”
According to the MPOWER measures suggested by WHO on tobacco control, raising taxes on tobacco is one of the effective and important means to combat tobacco epidemic. In many high-income countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand and Singapore, the tobacco tax already accounts for 70% or above of the cigarette retail price.
COSH has commissioned the School of Public Health of The University of Hong Kong to conduct “Tobacco Control Policy-related Survey 2012/13” to collect public views on the related policies including raising tobacco tax. The survey was conducted by telephone interview from March to July 2013 with 2,401 respondents. It was found that 65.3% of the respondents supported tobacco tax increase. Nearly one-third (32.8%) of ex-smokers who quitted after 2011 stated that the tobacco tax increase in 2011 made them more determined to quit. Moreover, more than 30% (31.4%) of current smokers reduced daily consumption after 2011 tax increase. Prof LAM Tai-hing, Chair Professor of Community Medicine cum Sir Robert Kotewall Professor in Public Health, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong explains, “The survey shows that most of the public support tobacco tax increase. The measure also motivates smokers to quit.”
Ex-smoker Mr CHAN Siu-fai, aged 57 and had smoked for over 40 years, kicked the habit last year because of health concern. He claims that he was motivated by the tobacco tax increase in 2009 and 2011 to quit smoking and reduce cigarette consumption.
COSH urges the Government to raise the tobacco tax to over 75% of the retail price of cigarette as soon as possible and also implement a long-term tobacco tax policy. We also advocate the Government to increase the resources for smoking cessation services, smoke-free education and promotion, enforcement of tobacco control legislation and combatting illicit cigarettes. With reference to previous experiences on raising tobacco tax in Hong Kong, Ms Lisa LAU estimates that the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong will drop from the current 10.7% to single digit after 1 to 2 years with the 100% increase in tobacco tax.
COSH will continue to conduct research and enhance public education on tobacco tax increase to gather more support from the public. COSH will set up a webpage to collect the signatory from the public for tobacco tax increase. Please visit www.smokefree.hk for details.
COSH advocates the Government to increase the tobacco tax by 100% in 2014-15 fiscal year in order to make Hong Kong the world’s first developed region to lower the smoking rate to single digit.
Mr CHAN Siu-fai, who quitted smoking successfully, claims that tobacco tax increase is effective in motivating smokers to kick the habit.