Hong Kong - cigarettes too cheap, tax only 61 and 66 percent of retail price..

February 22, 2010 - Health groups in Hong Kong Monday, February 22nd called for a sharp rise in tobacco duty as a study revealed cigarettes in the city are among the cheapest in the developed world. Buying 1,000 cigarettes of one brand in Hong Kong costs just 217 US dollars compared to 409 US dollars in New York and 503 US dollars in London.

Those cigarettes would also cost significantly more in Melbourne (277 US dollars), Singapore (361 US dollars), Paris (361 US dollars) and Dublin (577 US dollars), the survey found.

The study by health groups in Hong Kong was released ahead of Wednesday's (February 24th) budget when financial secretary John Tsang is under pressure to push up the price of cigarettes in the city of 7 million.

An open letter to the Hong Kong government signed by health advocates including World Health Organization advisor Judith Mackay says a 10-percent price rise could save thousands of lives. "There are about 750,000 smokers in Hong Kong," the letter said. "One in two smokers is killed by disease caused by tobacco. Each 10-percent rise in price will prevent at least 18,000 deaths. "Effective taxation must be 75 to 80 percent of the retail price (of cigarettes) whereas currently in Hong Kong, it is only between 61 and 66 percent." If Dr. Mackay is correct it's time to increase the tax on cigarettes in the U.S. where taxation is only 38 percent of the retail price.

Smoking in bars and restaurants and many public places in Hong Kong was banned from January 2007 although a powerful lobby group won temporary exemptions to the ban for many venues.

Reference: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/310503,cigarettes-too-cheap-in-hong-kong-health-groups-say.html, Earth Times, 2/22/2010.

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