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COSH’s response to the tobacco control policies proposed by The Budget
Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) was extremely disappointed with the decision of the Financial Secretary not to raise the tobacco tax in The 2018-19 Budget. Mr Antonio KWONG, COSH Chairman emphasized, “Smoking is the leading single preventable cause of death worldwide, while raising tobacco tax is the single most effective measure to reduce tobacco use and encourage smoking cessation. Tobacco tax has been frozen for four consecutive years in Hong Kong, which further weakens the price effect on reducing the demand for tobacco.”

COSH, together with 71 organizations, sent an open letter to the Financial Secretary (click here to read the open letter) to urge the Government to raise tobacco tax by 100% in FY2018-19 to protect public health. Cigarette price of the major brands in Hong Kong now is about HK$57 per pack, which is low when compared to other developed regions such as Australia (about HK$154), New Zealand (about HK$133), the United Kingdom (about HK$94), Canada (about HK$78) and Singapore (about HK$75). The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommended countries to raise tax to lower the affordability of tobacco products. According to the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2017, over 30 countries have raised tobacco tax to more than 75% of the retail price and nearly 60 countries to more than 70%. Tobacco tax of a pack of cigarettes in Hong Kong is about HK$38, representing only about 67% of the retail price, which is lower than WHO’s recommendation. To keep in line with international standards, Hong Kong should increase tobacco tax substantially to maintain the price effect, decrease the demand for tobacco products and discourage youth from picking up the smoking habit.

In 2015, the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong was 10.5%, which is one of the lowest in the world. However, there are still over 640,000 daily smokers in Hong Kong. COSH urges the Government to strengthen its policy on tobacco tax and enhance the multi-pronged tobacco control measures, including the implementation of plain packaging, banning all tobacco product display at points of sale, extension of smoke-free areas, total ban of e-cigarettes, regulation of emerging tobacco products, placing legal onus on venue managers who should be liable for smoking offences, increasing the legal tobacco sales age, tightened enforcement, as well as allocation of more resources for smoking cessation services and smoke-free education. It is hoped that the smoking prevalence will be lowered to a single digit percentage as soon as possible, and to 5% or below in 2027 and leap towards a tobacco endgame to protect the public from the harms of tobacco and secondhand smoke.
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