Hong Kong - govt officials meet with tobacco companies ahead of next week's budget..

Hong Kong Seal..
February 14, 2011 - Anti-smoking activists say government officials breached an international health guideline by meeting tobacco companies ahead of next week's budget.

They say this violated the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which states governments should protect public health policies from the interests of the tobacco industry.

The government is under pressure from doctors, health groups and the anti-smoking lobby to raise the tobacco tax. The consensus seems to be for a rise of at least 75 per cent of the retail price, from 62 per cent. This would add about HK$5 to a pack of cigarettes but still leave them among the cheapest in the developed world.

Hong Kong - Council on Smoking and Health has called for a raise in tobacco tax to at least 75% of retail price..

Public health academics will submit a statement to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah today in protest at the meeting. They want a full disclosure of what was discussed.

"What is the tobacco industry trying to lobby for ahead of the budget?" asked Professor Judith Mackay, an adviser to the World Lung Foundation and a policy adviser to the WHO. "Since so many health groups have advocated a tobacco tax increase this year, it will be extremely suspicious if tobacco tax is not raised to 75 percent in the budget. We will then have to look if there were other influences."

An open letter to the Hong Kong SAR Government released February 18, 2010 that still holds today. The protection of young people from addiction to tobacco should be one of our highest public health priorities.

References: ASH Daily news for 14 February 2011, ASH UK, 2/14/2011; Anger at pre-budget tobacco lobbying Top health academics protest to finance chief, Ng Yuk-hang, South China Morning Post, 2/14/2011.

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