Call for Hong Kong tobacco tax hike next year, and cigarette ban in 10 years
December 01, 2017
Smoking still relatively cheap in the city, where tax on tobacco is below World Health Organisation’s recommended rate
An anti-smoking group has called on the Hong Kong government to double the tobacco tax next year, and to eventually ban cigarettes in a decade.
In pushing its “tobacco endgame plan”, the Council on Smoking and Health repeated its previous call to raise the tobacco tax by 100 per cent, claiming it could push smoking prevalence from 10.5 per cent in 2015 to below 5 per cent in 2027, paving the way for its desired ban that year.
Council chairman Antonio Kwong Cho-shing said many countries had already set targets for the phase-out of tobacco and brought in innovative policies to that end.
Hong Kong should follow that trend, he said.
Professor Judith Mackay, a veteran tobacco control advocate and senior policy adviser for the World Health Organisation (WHO), said: “We must speed up the pace towards the endgame target.”
The council said raising the tobacco tax had been proven the most effective tobacco control measure in many countries and regions including Hong Kong. The city’s current tobacco tax level is 67 per cent of the retail price, lower than the 75 per cent recommended by the WHO. The last increase in the tax was in 2014.
And cigarette prices are a lot lower in the city than in some other developed economies.
The current retail price for an average cigarette packet in Hong Kong is HK$57, of which HK$38 is tax. If the tax doubled, a pack would cost HK$95.
A cigarette pack costs about HK$154 in Australia, about HK$133 in New Zealand, HK$94 in Britain and about HK$75 in Singapore, according to the council.
A study by the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health this year found that more than 80 per cent of respondents supported raising the tobacco tax next year. And 62.1 per cent of respondents backed a ban on smoking in the city if prevalence drops to 5 per cent or lower.
The Coalition on Tobacco Affairs, an umbrella group of tobacco producers, said it opposed a 100 per cent tax rise, but was not against rises in general.
“The tobacco sector understands the effectiveness of the tax in controlling smoking. Our coalition will not oppose a gradual increase based on inflation,” it said on Thursday.
It said a drastic jump in the tax would boost sales of contraband cigarettes. It called on the government to study tobacco control policies based on science and proof, not on figures from abroad.