The World Health Organization suggests raising tobacco price through tax increase as the single most effective tobacco control measure, with regular significant tax increase to continually reduce the affordability of tobacco products. Australia has increased the tobacco tax again, bringing the cigarette price to about HK$ 200 per pack.
Australia is renowned for its advanced tobacco control policies. After the significant tobacco tax increase of 25% in 2010, Australia increases the tax by 12.5% every year since 2013. This year, Australia imposed the 8th consecutive tax increase on tobacco products, bringing the cigarette price to a world record high of AU$35 (approximately HK$200) per pack on average. The annual tax increment policy has been shown effective in immediate and sustained smoking reduction, with the smoking prevalence reduced from 15.1% in 2010 to 11.0% in 2019.
Apart from Australia, many countries have adopted a similar mechanism of annual tobacco tax increase. New Zealand increases tobacco tax by at least 10% above inflation every year since 2010, with an increase at 11.5% in 2020. The United Kingdom has implemented annual tobacco tax increase since 1993, with an increase at 2% above inflation this year for all tobacco products and an additional 4% increase for rolling tobacco. The Philippines has also initiated a similar tobacco tax policy, increasing the tax per cigarette pack by PHP$10 (approximately HK$1.6) this year, by PHP$5 (approximately HK$0.8) annually until 2023 and by 5% afterwards.
The tobacco tax in Hong Kong has been frozen in most of the years in the past 2 decades and remains at HK$38 per pack since 2014. After discounting inflation and income growth, the current cigarette price in Hong Kong is even more affordable when compared to that in the 1990s. COSH strongly urges the Hong Kong Government to increase tobacco tax substantially and set an annual tax increase mechanism to motivate smokers to quit and deter smoking uptake in youth.

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