Letters to the Editor, December 4, 2017

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 5:30pm

Tobacco taxes alone cannot stub out habit

The Council on Smoking and Health last week repeated its call for the tobacco tax to be doubled next year, in order to eventually stop tobacco use in Hong Kong (“Call for Hong Kong tobacco tax hike next year, and cigarette ban in 10 years”, December 1).

The council chair called on Hong Kong to follow the trend of many advanced economies that have already set targets for phasing out tobacco, and brought in innovative policies to that end. However, I don’t think just raising taxes would be an ­effective solution in Hong Kong.

Indeed, raising the tax is the fastest way to reduce the number of smokers in Hong Kong. The council says a 100 per cent tax hike could push smoking prevalence from 10.5 per cent in 2015 to below 5 per cent by 2027, and pave the way for a total ban.

A lot of smokers say they would quit if cigarettes became even more expensive. However, I believe this tax hike plan only addresses the symptoms, not the actual problem. The root of the problem is low public awareness, and a tendency to ignore the health effects of tobacco use.

Some of our smokers are rich enough to buy cigarettes, no matter what the price. And those too poor to afford a pack after the tax hike may be tempted to buy smuggled and illicit cigarettes, which are generally cheaper.

The government of Hong Kong needs to choose a two-pronged approach, raising the tobacco tax and also intensifying public education on the health hazards of smoking, as a more effective measure to make smokers quit and discourage others from taking up the habit.

Other advanced economies are taking firm steps. Australia became the first country to fully implement plain packaging for cigarettes in December 2012, followed by the UK earlier this year. And Japan requires warn­ings on cigarette packs to describe harmful health effects.

I believe a combination of a higher tobacco tax, health warnings and more smoke-free areas would help reduce cigarette smoking overall and ­improve public health.

Desmond Chan Chun-fai, Tseung Kwan O

Why silence is golden over Link mall woes

I refer to the article on the public reaction to the HK$23 billion sale of 17 Link Reit malls (“Link Reit shopping centre sell-off prompts widespread public concern”, December 3).

Three-quarters of respondents in a survey were dissatisfied that the government had nothing to say about the Link’s repeated sell-offs, while nearly 90 per cent were unhappy that “livelihood facilities” were being sold off again.

Residents of nearby public housing estates were worried that this would further drive up shop rents and force out family-owned stores, leaving buyers with only expensive chain stores to choose from.

However, it is not surprising that the government prefers to remain silent.

Business comes first in Hong Kong, and the government cannot speak up against market forces or the profit principle.

Moreover, each time large enterprises make money from such sales, the government earns revenue.

I think the public should understand that it is impossible for the government to really help them, given the situation.

However, they should not give up voicing their grievances if the ­actions of large enterprises lead to hardships in their lives.

Angela Chui, Kwai Chung

Teach students how to tackle cyberbullying

Cyberbullying of schoolchildren is on the rise in Hong Kong.

A study by the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society in 2012 found a third of students from Primary Four to Secondary Three were victims, while the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups estimates that only one in four cyberbullying victims will formally report the abuse. Some people say cyberbullying should be criminalised in our city.

But I think education would be more effective in tackling this problem.

There is no better way to deal with cyberbullying than prevention, and education is the best preventive measure. Educating youngsters about the effects of online attacks can reduce harmful behaviour on social media.

Schools and the government could organise talks on the negative impact of cyberbullying. Workshops would also help ­students to become more aware of cyberbullying and learn how to stay safe online or seek help.

It is important to teach young students the definition of a cyberbullying victim, so they know when they are being targeted. It is also important to ­remind victims that they are not alone, and teach them when and how to ask for help. Many people tend to ignore this form of violence, as it is virtual, but we must recognise its devastating effect on a young mind.

Karamjit Singh, Tuen Mun

Have at least one counsellor at each school

Reports of a Primary One pupil allegedly being emotionally and physically bullied attracted much attention, as it seemed unbelievable that seven-year-olds could act in this way.

Punishing bullies cannot be an effective deterrent, as vengeful feelings can lead to more serious misconduct. It is up to parents to place equal ­emphasis on moral education, teaching children to be kind and good.

At school, although management guidelines provided by the Education Bureau include suggestions on how to handle bullying, teaching personnel are generally not well trained in this respect. The bureau could provide better training so that teachers can detect and ­resolve bullying cases better, especially the reconciliation process ­between victims and bullies.

Also, I urge the bureau to ­arrange for at least one qualified counsellor in each school, for the emotional well-being of both victims and bullies. The role of counsellors is also important in view of the spate of suicides among unhappy students.

Victor Chan, Sai Wan Ho

Rash drivers are putting lives at risk

The terrible accident in which a bus crashed into a truck on Lantau has sounded the alarm over the need for stronger measures to prevent cases of dangerous driving, whether under the ­effects of fatigue, drink or drugs (“19 hurt as Hong Kong double-decker ploughs into truck on Lantau”, November 30).

Most Hongkongers want the government to introduce more stringent regulations in this ­regard. This may include ­increasing the fine and jail terms for offenders, increasing driving disqualification periods for reckless driving and the revoking of licence in case of dangerous driving causing death.

Apart from heavier penalties, the government should also do more to educate the public about the consequences of irresponsible driving, emphasising the immorality, if not sheer criminality, of driving while being ­unfit to do so and putting innocent lives at risk.

Michael Li, Hang Hau