LEGAL and smuggled cigarettes will cost more from today, with Customs and Excise anti-smuggling officers doing their bit to force up black market prices. Mr Tsang, announcing a nine per cent duty increase in line with inflation, hailed the success of seizures which are cutting supplies to smokers who have been able to light up at one-third of the cost. The Financial Secretary said his move would deter people taking up the habit without encouraging smuggling. But the industry, which had been hoping for a break, said the increase was likely to fuel illegal supplies. The duty increase, taking immediate effect, puts about $2.25 on the average $25 pack of cigarettes. The price of cigars and Chinese prepared tobacco has gone up from $805 and $153 per kilogram to $877 and $167 respectively. Mr Tsang cited the success of the anti-cigarette smuggling taskforce, established in April 1994, as a key factor in his decision to impose the increase. It maintains Hong Kong's status as the most expensive place to smoke in the region. The taskforce seized 82.5 million contraband cigarettes last year, with a duty potential of $51.1 million. This was an increase on 1994 seizures when 62.2 million in-bound cigarettes were intercepted, worth $39 million in potential lost duty. In 1993, before the taskforce was set up, 49.5 million cigarettes were seized. Last month the taskforce made the third largest seizure in the territory, confiscating $78.5 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in six raids in Fo Tan. Hong Kong Tobacco Institute secretary-general Hayley Kan Mee-lin praised the Government's anti-smuggling efforts, but said the incentive to smuggle would be fuelled by yesterday's announcement. She also accused Mr Tsang of 'social engineering', contesting his claim of 'preserving the deterrent effect'. She said: 'The duty increase is a short-sighted move which will surely exacerbate the smuggling problem. British American Tobacco spokesman Brenda Chow Kam-wah said: 'The duty increase only serves to widen the gap between Hong Kong and neighbouring countries in the region. 'We have been helping the Government try to stop the escalation in smuggling, and we thought we deserved a break. We proposed an increase every other year, instead of every year. 'As a result of the duty increase, Government revenues will continue to decline and retailers will suffer. I would like to ask the Financial Secretary to give us a break next year.' Mr Tsang's budget announcement was welcomed by anti-smoking lobbyists. Director of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control Professor Judith Mackay described the announcement as 'prudent and sensible'. She said: 'How should anybody who kills half their clients deserve a break? 'We have done very well in the past on price increases. This is the most potent method of preventing children from taking up smoking. 'The dilemma of making them even more expensive, is that people turn to smuggled cigarettes. But I think the Financial Secretary has got it about right. 'Though this year the real battle isn't prices, it's about getting a ban on cigarette advertising. The crucial and critical thing is for Hong Kong to do this as time is running out.' Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health executive director Angeline Oyang Ying-lan said she felt there could have been another one or two per cent increase in the duty, but was happy on the whole.