Hong Kong to Hike Tobacco Tax by 75% to Curb Smoking

Hong Kong is set to increase its tobacco tax by 75% in the upcoming budget, following the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH). The move aims to motivate smokers to quit, prevent young people from starting, and protect the public from the harms of smoking.

According to COSH, the tobacco tax hike will make the cigarette retail price to about HK$115 per pack, which is expected to lower the smoking rate by around 0.7 percentage point to 8.8%. This will also bring Hong Kong in line with the WHO’s standard that tobacco tax should account for 75% or above of the cigarette retail price. Currently, 41 countries have met this standard, of which 17 have the tobacco tax accounting for over 80% of the price.

COSH Chairman Mr Henry TONG Sau-chai said that raising the tobacco tax by at least 75% is the most effective and cost-effective measure to reduce tobacco use, as it will make smoking less affordable and more unattractive. He also urged the government to implement an automatic tax increase mechanism for future annual tax hikes, adjusted to counteract the effects of inflation and income growth.

Tobacco Tax Hike to Benefit Health and Economy

The tobacco tax hike is not only beneficial for the health of smokers and non-smokers, but also for the economy and the society. COSH estimated that quitters may save up to HK$42,000 per year on tobacco expenditure, while the society will avoid healthcare and social costs of nearly HK$5 billion in the long run. These costs include medical expenses, productivity losses, environmental damages, and premature deaths caused by smoking.

COSH Executive Director Ms Vienna LAI Wai-yin said that smoking is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases. She said that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of these diseases and improve the quality of life. She also encouraged smokers to seek professional help from the Integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline or other smoking cessation services.

Tobacco Tax Hike to Support Tobacco Control Initiatives

The tobacco tax hike is part of the next-phase tobacco control initiatives that the Chief Executive of HKSAR proposed in the 2023 Policy Address. The government aims to reduce the smoking prevalence to 7.8% by 2025, which requires a reduction of over 100,000 smokers in less than two years.

Besides raising the tobacco tax, the government also plans to introduce other measures, such as banning the sale of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products, expanding the statutory no-smoking areas, and enhancing the enforcement and publicity of the smoking ban.

COSH welcomed these initiatives and called for their swift and effective implementation. COSH also appealed to the public to support the tobacco control measures and to join the smoke-free movement, striving for a tobacco-free Hong Kong.

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