China New net July 13 Comprehensive Hong Kong media reported that the Medical and Health Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government launched a public consultation on the “vibrant, healthy and smoke-free Hong Kong” tobacco control strategy on the 12th, in addition to strengthening tobacco harm publicity and cracking down on illicit cigarettes and other measures, but also put forward 14 tobacco control measures. These proposals, which have been called “hot moves” by the Hong Kong media, include banning the sale of tobacco products to people born after a certain date, increasing tobacco duty, regulating the taste of tobacco, banning smoking while walking, and so on.
The goal is to reduce the smoking rate to 7.8% by 2025
At the meeting, the Secretary for Health, Mr Lo Chun-mau, pointed out that there were still nearly 600,000 daily smokers in Hong Kong, of whom one in two smokers was aged 50 or above. While the overall smoking rate has declined, the number of women smoking has increased, and more than 7% of secondary school students have tried smoking.
The tobacco control strategy proposed by the Health and Health Council covers four directions and 14 measures. Specific proposals include studying to follow the example of overseas countries in banning the sale or even provision of tobacco products to people born after a certain date. Study on regulating the taste of tobacco to avoid adding fruit, mint, etc., to attract young people and women to smoke; Explore the extension of no-smoking areas in public places, such as near hospitals and schools; Ban the “locomotive” act of smoking while walking, and consider increasing the fixed penalty for smoking offences from the current $1,500 (HK $) to $3,000 or $5,000.
The consultation document also proposes to increase tobacco duty, and Lo said that increasing tobacco duty is internationally recognized as the most effective tobacco control measure, and the current duty ratio of cigarettes to retail prices in Hong Kong is 64%, which is still lower than the 75% recommended by the World Health Organization.
Mr Lo said that in the “Towards 2025: Strategy and Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in Hong Kong”, the SAR Government had earlier set the target of reducing the smoking rate to 7.8% by 2025 in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, and hoped to reduce the smoking rate to a lower level in the long run, or even achieve a “smoke-free Hong Kong”. The SAR Government will keep an open mind and take into account the views of groups such as newspaper vendors and smokers.
All walks of life say to crack down on illicit cigarettes at the same time
It is reported that many people welcome the SAR government’s tobacco control proposals, some people said, “‘ locomotive ‘and other acts are like forcing other pedestrians to breathe second-hand smoke, support the ban”; “The number of people smoking e-cigarettes in Hong Kong is particularly large, e-cigarettes are made of chemicals, more impurities, should be more restricted.”
Economic concerns were also cited. Some Hong Kong tobacco vendors said that the tobacco tax had been increased once in February, and the profit of cigarettes as low as two yuan a pack has fallen to the bottom. The rising price of legally sold cigarettes has led many customers to buy illicit cigarettes, making it difficult to do business. Some members of the public who have been smoking for many years admit that the increase in tobacco duty will make many smokers turn to helping (buying) illicit cigarettes, and they doubt that if there is no increase in resources to combat illicit cigarettes, it will not help reduce the number of smokers.
The chairman of the Committee on Smoking and Health, Mr Thomas Hutch, welcomed the direction of the consultation document and said he strongly supported the expansion of the statutory no-smoking areas. He considered that smoking should be banned within 10 metres outside schools, hospitals and home for the elderly facilities, and also supported a ban on “smoking while walking”. Asked whether he was concerned about enforcement difficulties, Mr Tong said that he had received many complaints about “smoking while walking” and considered that good legislation should not be left unenacted just because there might be disputes or considerations in law enforcement.
When asked about the impact of the series of measures on smokers, especially grassroots smokers who are most affected by the tax increase, Mr Lo said, “For the grassroots, the harm caused by smoking may be more serious than that of the general public, because the harm caused by smoking to them is greater regardless of their living environment or financial means.”
The Director of Health of the HKSAR Government, Mr Lam Man-kin, said that the Department had launched a smoking cessation Month campaign in the past June and the effect was better than expected. In the fight against illicit cigarettes, the Department has been working with departments such as the Customs and Excise Department to stop the sale of duty-unpaid illicit cigarettes. In the past two years, a total of 11 offenders for distributing illicit cigarette advertisements were prosecuted. Following the ban on the import of alternative tobacco products in April last year, the TCO has received more than 1,000 referrals from the Customs and Excise.Enforcement agencies have issued 148 summonses, of which six cases have resulted in fines of $1,000 to $6,000.
Lu said in an interview on the 13th that the customs has spared no effort to deal with illicit cigarettes in recent years, and the quality of illicit cigarettes has problems, or there are many impurities and damage the lungs. Increasing tobacco duty is one of the effective tobacco control measures, and it is necessary to understand the public’s views on the sale of cigarettes. In order to reduce the smoking rate, the sale of tobacco will certainly decrease. As regards the argument made by the tobacco traders that the increase in tobacco duty will affect the grassroots, they are using the public as a “shield”.
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