MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): At a meeting held by a Bills Committee in the Legislative Council last Saturday on raising tobacco duty, organizations were invited to attend the meeting to express their views on raising the duty, and their response was quite enthusiastic. Representatives of cigarette vendors expressed grave concern that, with the introduction of the new tobacco duty rates, profits would become very high, and this would lead to the problem of illicit cigarettes. However, they considered the problem of counterfeit cigarettes even more serious because the consequences of smoking counterfeit cigarettes will be even more serious than smoking genuine cigarettes. Not only will public health be seriously undermined, a heavy burden will also be imposed on the territory’s health care system in the future. May I ask the Government, apart from striving to combat illicit cigarettes, what corresponding measures will be adopted against the purchase of counterfeit cigarettes by the public? In other words, what measures will be taken to prevent the public from purchasing counterfeit cigarettes?
SECRETARY FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES AND THE TREASURY (in Cantonese): Insofar as this question is concerned, I believe tobacco control is our fundamental policy. According to a wide range of data collected as well as surveys and studies conducted in the past, increasing the duty rate will lower the quantity of cigarettes consumed by the public. As regards whether an increase in tobacco duty will lead to a greater number of counterfeit cigarettes purchased by the public, and given the fact that counterfeit cigarettes contain harmful substances, I believe we will, just as the approach currently adopted by us, combat illicit cigarettes by all means and appeal to the public not to break the law. Let us refer to the data provided by me just now. According to the figures currently available on the peddling of illicit cigarettes, there has not been an obvious rise in the figures of peddled illicit cigarettes since the increase of tobacco duty. Furthermore, compared with the past, the recent years have seen significant results of anti-illicit cigarettes operations by the C&ED.