• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 6:34am

'War on smoking' will achieve same result as war on drugs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 2:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 2:52am

I am a smoker and an ordinary old man. I have lived for 70 years and spent much of my youthful time on the mainland during the Cultural Revolution.

Ms Lisa Lau, chair of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, resembles the admirable and well-intentioned revolutionaries of my time. She wrote pleading for public support to save my life by increasing tobacco tax ("Raising tobacco tax is a guaranteed measure to save more lives, February 19).

Thank you, Ms Lau. I cannot commend your cause more. However, as a smoker for nearly half a century, I have come to the conclusion that it is my choice to be a smoker and it is my life that is at stake. Would you mind leaving me alone? I am old and my life might not be worth your effort saving.

We should, however, do whatever it takes to make sure that kids don't smoke. Every time I see underage students smoking, I question how they got their cigarettes. Isn't it a no-brainer that cheaper illicit cigarettes encourage youth smoking?

Ms Lau, you have a comprehensive plan to fight smoking, haven't you? Why don't we simply ban smoking right away? Let's look at how much the war on drugs has achieved. Drugs are illegal, hence none are on display or put up for public sale.

Everyone knows drugs cause irreparable damage to the brain. The government spends billions every year in law enforcement and public education. Yet, kids still do drugs. Can we confidently say that law enforcement and education alone will eradicate all the sins in your eyes? My revolution-minded compatriots back in the good old days wanted to save the world from evil capitalists and imperialists.

History nevertheless teaches us good intention is not enough to change the world. Smoking damages health. But this premise alone does not justify policies that create perverse results. I do not want to see young people smoke, or lured into becoming one of the gangsters to profit from illicit cigarette sales. The gist of the matter is not about us fighting any evil enemies but how we encourage young people to cherish life and establish a positive outlook in life.

I plead guilty for being a smoker but I hope my two cents can save not only lives but also a few souls.

Lee Lung-wing, Tseung Kwan O


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Would the real Mr Lee Lung-wing please stand up !
Did the Red Guards really teach English skills as good as this during the Cultural Revolution?
As "dynamaco" hints below, this letter just has to be a put-up job!
To use Lee's own words "its a no-brainer"
This is obviously an industry written front article of smoke & mirrors
"choice to be a smoker & it is my life that is at stake" Wrong on both counts. Nicotine is far more addictive than crack cocaine & 23% of the yearly 7000 deaths in HKG are from passive sidestream smoke-How many innocents has this 'smoker' killed to date ?
"cheaper illicit cigarettes encourage youth smoking" 65% of all illicit tobacco seized last year in HKG was GENUINE DNP product & 35% was contraband fake. It is a known documented & admitted fact that tobacco companies smuggle their own products by failing to control their supply chains. If the Govt had any political will it would have mandatory jail terms for anyone buying Duty Not Paid tobacco.
Charging $130 per pack like Queensland would put tobacco out of youth reach. Tobacco tax is a preventative health measure whilst smuggling requires law enforcement & use of the Organised + Serious Crimes laws.Tobacco companies’ Armageddon consists of Excise tax to prevent replacement youth smokers starting, Plain packaging of the ‘Silent Salesman’ colorful packet, mandatory track + trace of their shipments & Duty Free & jailing their executives (as happened in Canada) for collusion in smuggling DNP ‘general cargo’. “We addicted them so it’s our right to continue to sell to them” does not fly. Meanwhile HK Customs Dept must reject the Big Tobacco funded informer scheme as required under the FCTC treaty
Around the world it is shown that raising tobacco price through tobacco tax is THE single most important action in both reducing youth smoking and also encouraging already-smokers to quit.
It is actually the DUTY of governments to take all proven effective measures to protect the health of their people - it would be negligent for them not to do so, as it would if they allowed a cancer-inducing chemical in a factory in Kwun Tong. I have seen only too many statements, letters, organisations like this behind which lurks the hand of the tobacco industry and its allies. They fight tax increases because they know it works in reducing smoking.
It is easy to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Double stamp duty so each pack costs HK$80. Then take the tax money and put 60% towards stopping illicit cigarettes and 40% towards education to stop people taking up smoking. If you take this $$ from a bad thing and put it to a good use then I think HK will reduce the smoking substantially.
Also they should not let people smoke wherever they feel like it. There should be designated smoking sections. Such as only within 20 feet of an government astray. People then caught smoking not near an ashtray could have a fixed HK$ 500 fine. (make smoking possible but uncomfortable). Smoking is all about price and convenience.
Yes, you have the freedom to smoke and live life as you fit. However, the extent of your freedom ends when you intrude on others' freedom for at least slightly cleaner and more breathable air. The "war on drugs" is not the same as "war on smoking" as drug abuse is illegal in most cases, where your "war on smoking" only consists of a reasonable age limit and tax to dissuade non-smokers from attempting and smokers from continuing.
The argument that the "war on drugs" failed because there are still kids doing drugs is a strawman argument. If you look at the Censtatd data[1], we can see a falling trend in reported drug abuse for ages 21 and below, which shows education and enforcement have helped prevent drug use.
So, yes, feel free to smoke. You just need to pay for it.
Would only suggest that :
1. Discharging cigarette smoke into the air in any public place is considered littering and prosecuted as such. The users need to required to retain and consume the entire cigarette and its combustion products, they do not need to share them with anyone else.
2. Using a cigarette within 2m of a child is considered child abuse and prosecuted as such.
3. And we all stop using this euphemism of 'smoking' when 'poisoning' is the more accurate word.
I really don't give a damn how people choose to live their lives as long as what they do does not harm others.
However, to prevent children from getting hooked on nicotine, the government should consider making it illegal for anyone born after, say, 1997 to buy, possess, sell, manufacture or smoke tobacco anywhere in HK.
As too the free treatment of lung cancer patients by the HA, how do we differentiate between the victims of smoking and the victims of air pollution?
@jfmackay wouldn't it be easier to outright just ban cigarettes and alcohol ? then no one will do it ! Increasing tax on things only benefits the government .... what does the government NOT do to increase tax on just everything!
Would you rather he write a bunch of gobbledygook like "pslhk"??
Good point !


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