The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health has expressed disappointment at the increase in tobacco duty announced by Financial Secretary John Tsang in today’s budget speech, saying it is too small to affect smokers’ behaviour.
The 20 per cent per stick increase on cigarettes, which takes place with immediate effect, will increase the retail price per pack from an average HK$50 to about HK$54.
It brings the proportion of tobacco duty to retail price of cigarettes to about 70 per cent – the minimum level recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Chairman of the council Lisa Lau Man-man said the raise was not enough to prompt smokers to quit.
The council had called for the tobacco tax to be doubled, which would have raised the average price to HK$84 per pack.
Some smokers wrote on the internet forum Golden that they had expected the increase and had stocked up with dozens of packs beforehand.
A few said that a HK$4 increase per pack was insignificant and that smokers should “celebrate”.
“I wish to emphasise that this is not a budgetary measure to increase revenue,” Tsang said as he announced the measure.
A government source said the increase was not based on projections of what level of duty would be needed to discourage the average smoker. Nevertheless, they expected the proportion of smokers in the general public could drop from 10.7 per cent to single digits.
Tsang stressed the government would continue to strengthen its smoking cessation services. It would also step up publicity and law enforcement on tobacco control. At the same time, the Customs and Excise Department would step up enforcement against illicit cigarette trading.