Gov’t ponders increase on tobacco tax to tackle youth smoking

Lawmakers have vowed for a more efficient smoking prevention amongst young people, claiming that the supervision over the selling of tobacco to minors and actions to raise awareness on the effects of smoking are failing to provide successful results. In yesterday’s Legislative Assembly plenary, the director of the Health Bureau, Mr Lei Chin Ion, assured that supervision will be reinforced and the tax on tobacco will be increased as a measure to tackle the issue of smoking amongst youth.
The Health Bureau director also recognized that they have been facing challenges in implementing the law, thus failing to effectively prevent convenience stores or other places from selling tobacco to people under the age of 18.
Lei Chin Ion promised to reinforce supervision in cyber cafes and activities centers. In addition, he said there is a need to increase the tax on tobacco – which today is set at 33 percent of the product cost, still far from the 70 percent suggested by the World Health Organization.
The matter was raised following a spoken enquiry by lawmaker Angela Leong, who questioned the government on the challenges lying behind the prohibition on selling tobacco to minors.
“There are mechanisms to prevent youth from smoking, but I believe those mechanisms aren’t sufficient. Indeed, it is very easy for teenagers to buy cigarettes. And those selling tobacco are not warned regarding this law [often enough],” Angela Leong said.
Lei Chin Ion guaranteed that the number of young people smoking has decreased over the recent years. But lawmakers insisted the issue remains.
Mak Soi Kun, for instance, said that professors have sometimes provided a bad example to students, as they smoke near the school’s premises.
Leong Veng Chai called for a reinforcement of supervision during the day, rather than at night expressing that “if there are more supervisors, shop owners will refrain from selling tobacco to people under 18.”
Lei Chin Ion revealed that, in 2014, authorities recorded a total of 73 cases of people under the age of 16 years old smoking in non-authorized areas. Last year, there were three complaints over shops selling tobacco to minors. However, no sanctions were applied. CP

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