HKU Response to the Increase in Tobacco Tax Presented in the Budget

Thursday, 24 February 2011

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The Financial Secretary delivered his 2011-12 Budget Speech yesterday, in which, he proposed to increase the duty on cigarettes by $0.5 per stick. Professor Lam Tai-hing, Sir Robert Kotewall Professor in Public Health, Director of School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, Director of School of Nursing of The University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine have the follow response to this policy:

  1. We support the government’s policy to increase tobacco duty which was presented in the Budget 2011-12. We also very much welcome the government’s plan to increase the resources to support smoke cessation services.
  2. The government’s act to encourage more people to quit by increasing tobacco duty is justified by strong public health reasons. We believe the policy is of great benefits to the health of the smokers and Hong Kong citizens, as well as our next generations.
  3. We reiterate that to increase tobacco duty is the most effective way to save the lives of our citizens from the harms of smoking.
  4. According to many research findings from all over the world and in Hong Kong, to increase tobacco duty is the most effective tobacco control measure; we think there is no room for debate. Some people say the health reason to support the increase of tobacco tax is weak, we think it is totally misleading and ridiculous.
  5. We think those people who object to the increase of tobacco duty are “enemies of public health”, “accomplice of tobacco killer” and also the “opponents of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”, they should be accountable to the Hong Kong citizens.
  6. We understand that the legislators and some political parties are somewhat concerned about the negative sentiments of some smokers towards the new tobacco duty policy, we however, urge them and those who oppose to the increase of tobacco duty to work Press Release hand in hand and turn the smoker’s negative sentiments into impetus to quit. This increase in tobacco duty is absolutely necessary for protecting the smokers and the Hong Kong citizen’s health.
  7. We are preparing an open letter to the Legislative Council members, Hong Kong citizens and the World Health Organization to elaborate the harms caused by tobacco and how the increase in tobacco duty can help tobacco control.
  8. In collaboration with local and overseas anti-tobacco organisations, we will advocate an international campaign to support the Hong Kong government’s act to increase tobacco duty.
  9. There are 760,000 smokers in Hong Kong. Half of them (380,000 people) will die of diseases arisen from smoking if they do not quit immediately. In Hong Kong, tobacco kills 7,000 people per year.
  10. According to previous studies, 50% of smokers will be killed by smoking.
  11. Citizens are reminded not to buy or consume smuggled cigarettes. We urge the government to immediately reinforce the measures to fight against cigarette smuggling.
  12. We are pleased to see that the government is committed to offering more resources to provide smoking cessation services. The University of Hong Kong will work closely and collaborate with the government in this regard.

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