Hong Kong - Tax on cigarettes pushed up by 50 percent..

February 27, 2009 - The tax on cigarettes in Hong Kong was pushed up 50 percent Wednesday, February 25, 2009 to try to curb a worrying increase in smokers in the former British colony. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, JP announced in his annual budget speech that the duty on each cigarette sold would be increased from 80 Hong Kong cents to 1.20 Hong Kong dollars (10 to 15 US cents).

The increase pushes the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes to almost 5 US dollars, still around half the price of cigarettes in Singapore or Australia.

"We will continue to step up our efforts on smoking cessation as well as on publicity and enforcement in tobacco control," Tsang told legislators.

A study last year found that smoking rates in Hong Kong have actually increased by around 14 percent since a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars came into effect in 2006. Anti-smoking campaigners have called for far heavier taxes on cigarettes and for the smoking ban to be enforced more rigorously.

Cigars have also been affected by the increase, but due to their more complex pricing structure, new price lists have yet to be released.

Anthony Hedley, of the University of Hong Kong's school of public health: "We are pleased that the tobacco companies are helping our cause by increasing the price further." Li Cheong-lung, from the Committee on Youth Smoking Prevention, said: "Price influence is one of the most important reasons of youth smoking.

New prices: Marlboro HK$39; Kent HK$39; Salem HK$39; Next HK$34; L&M HK$36; Dunhill HK$39; Davidoff HK$35; Winfield HK$34; Capri HK$41; Winston HK$35. (1HKD=0.1289USD=0.1017EURO=0.0903GBP)

As we would expect Philip Morris also expressed worries that the higher tax would provide business for illegal traders.

Related news briefs: Honk Kong - smoking increase raise tobacco duties??; Hong Kong - temporary smoking ban exemption ends July 1, 2009..; Hong Kong - after smoking ban cigarette consumption up 14 percent..; Hong Kong - public smoking ban - smoking rooms??; Shanghai Tobacco's Golden Deer Cigarettes - Hong Kong..; More on Philip Morris International of the Future...

Reference: Tax on cigarettes pushed up by 50 percent in Hong Kong by DPA, EarthTimes.com, 2/25/2009; Smokers left gasping at HK$10 rise in price of a packet of cigarettes by Bryony Taylor, South China Morning Post, 2/27/2009.