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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

Over 500 newspaper vendors against adding tobacco tax

Over 500 newspaper vendors against adding tobacco tax

A local newspaper vendor group said on Tuesday that it has collected over 500 newsstand owners' signatures against the government raising the tobacco duty, saying it would not help reduce smoking rates at the expense of the vendors' interests.
''The pandemic in the past three years has made a strike to newspapers stalls in Hong Kong and reduced its number from 380 to 350,'' said the chairperson of the Coalition of Hong Kong Newspaper and Magazine Merchants Ma Dung-ngan, ''it will definitely be the last straw if their income from selling tobaccos would further fall due to the increased tax.''

Moreover, Ma added, increasing the tax will only push customers to the market of illicit cigarettes rather than reducing the number of smokers.

''Around 20 percent of cigarette consumers convert to buy illicit tobaccos,'' said Lee Wing-pak, summoner of the Coalition, ''consumers in the economic recession stage are more sensitive to price, let alone a high price with increased tax. ''

According to Hong Kong Customs, over 751 million illicit cigarettes with a market value of HK$2.1 billion, as well as a dutiable value of around HK$1.4 billion, were seized by the enforcement last year, marking an increase of 76 percent over 2021.

''It will not only harm the newspaper merchants' operating status, undermine the tax revenue of the government, but also not be beneficial to reducing the smoking population,'' said Lam Cheung-fu, president of the Hong Kong Newspaper Vendors Association.

In his Policy Address issued in October last year, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced that the government was aiming to reduce the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong to 7.8 percent by 2025, which means the smoking population will drop by 100,000.

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, the city's statutory body related to issues on smoking and tobacco, raised a proposal last year to advocate a tobacco tax increase of 100 percent increase.

''Rising tobacco tax is the single most effective measure to reduce tobacco use,'' said the council, ''however, Hong Kong has seen the tax frozen for eight continuous years.''

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