Health Bureau (SSM) Director Lei Chin Ion said Monday that his bureau would discuss with the Economic Services Bureau (DSE) a possible increase in the tobacco tax.
Lei made the remarks during the legislature’s question-and-answer session in which lawmakers raised a range of hot-button issues.
Lawmakers said that more and more of the city’s teenagers were smoking and criticised the government for its failure to get the message across to youngsters about the dangers of smoking.
In responding to lawmakers’ remarks, Lei said that according to the latest official figures the number of teenagers aged 13 to 15 who smoke had fallen by two percent between 2003 and last year, to about 18,000, or about 9.5 percent of the population of those aged 13 to 15.
According to the tobacco-control law, cigarettes cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
Lei said last year the bureau only received three complaints about shops selling cigarette to residents to under 18 year olds.
Responding to lawmakers questions about whether the government would consider increasing the tobacco tax as a method of getting people to cut down on the amount they smoked, Lei said that the government increased the tobacco tax in 2011 to about 33 percent of the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes.
He added that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the tax should be 70 percent of the price of each pack of cigarettes thus the bureau would discuss a possible tax hike with the Economic Services Bureau.