Honk Kong - smoking increase raise tobacco duties??

February 3, 2009 - Hong Kong - even with smoking ban cigarette consumption up 14 (13.8) percent. Customs and Excise Department figures show that 38.2 million more cigarettes per month were consumed last year than in 2006. The ban on smoking in indoor public places was introduced in July 2007, but some bars and karaoke clubs were given a two-year exemption. That exemption will end in July 2009, but already there has been a movement to postpone the move. The smoking ban has not hurt the restaurant trade, as the industry had feared.

Anti-tobacco groups are calling on the Government of Hong Kong's Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, JP to raise the tobacco duties (a tax charged by a government, especially on imports). The pressure to raise the tobacco tax is greater this year due to the financial downturn, and anti-tobacco groups say it is high time the government increased tobacco duties to cut consumption, especially among young people. The Council on Smoking and Health (Cosh) has been using the internet to rally support for a policy that would increase duties by 5 percentage points above inflation.

Low tobacco duties - which have not changed since April 1, 2001 - have made Hong Kong cigarettes among the cheapest available in developed economies.

1 HKD (Hong Kong Dollar) = 0.13 USD; 1 USD = 7.75 HKD)

Anthony Hedley, professor of the University of Hong Kong’s department of community medicine, said he was “very pessimistic” that Mr Tsang would choose public health over business.

Reference: Smoking Rise Draws Call To Put Up Duties by Mary Ann Benitez - South China Morning Post, Clean the Air Tobacco Blog, 1/31/2008.

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