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HKU Study Provides First Evidence that Rise in Tobacco Tax Curbs Adolescent Smoking
The School of Public Health of The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine has been monitoring adolescent smoking in Hong Kong for years. According to the School’s territory-wide school-based study, researchers found that the 50% increase in tobacco tax in 2009 has resulted in a drop of 51%. These results reflect that increase in tobacco tax is effective in preventing smoking and encouraging smoking cessation.
 
Five surveys have been conducted among secondary 1-5 students from 2003 to 2010. These were large-scale anonymous surveys conducted in up to 85 randomly selected secondary schools and 53,504 students to monitor the prevalence of current smoking (any smoking in the past 30 days) over time.
 
The study shows that the implementation of the comprehensive smokefree laws in 2007 helped reduce adolescent smoking from 9.5% in 2006 to 6.9% in 2008, i.e. 27% decrease in the smoking prevalence among adolescents in Hong Kong. With the 50% increase in tobacco tax in 2009, adolescent current smoking rate further dropped to 4.8% in early 2010 and 3.4% in late 2010, i.e. an overall 51% drop in adolescent smoking. As such, 13,452 adolescents are prevented from smoking and hence at least 6,726 future deaths due to tobacco-induced diseases. This research provides strong evidence that the increase in tobacco tax is effective in reducing smoking rate among adolescents.
 
Dr. Daniel HO Sai-yin, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health of The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and lead investigator of the study expressed that smoking has serious impacts on adolescent health, such as reduction in lung function and increase in risks of respiratory illness and atherosclerosis, diminishing overall physical health. Scientific evidence has showed that one out of two smokers will be killed by smoking, the risk of deaths for smokers who started smoking young can be much higher, meaning that two out of three such smokers will die from tobacco-induced diseases. He strongly believed that the proposed 40% rise in tobacco tax will further curb adolescent smoking.
 
Professor LAM Tai-hing, Sir Robert Kotewall Professor in Public Health and Director of School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine says called on legislators to support the Financial Secretary’s proposal of tax increase for the sake of public health. This powerful fiscal tool which can prevent thousands of young people from smoking and encourage many current smokers to quit thus saving thousands of lives rests in the hands of legislators, especially the present and future health of children.
 
Professor Sophia CHAN Siu-chee, Director of School of Nursing of The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine says, “it is observed from the Youth Quitline that the rise in tobacco tax increases the motivation of smoking cessation among youth smokers. We also noticed that the quit rate is higher when the youth smokers stop smoking because of tax increase.” The Hong Kong Government has recently approved new funding to support our Youth Quitline (2855-9557) operated by HKU. More student counselors will be trained to deliver tailor-made smoking cessation counseling service for youth and follow up service.