The typical cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes has risen by HK$12, from around HK$62 to HK$74.

Finance Secretary Paul Chan increased the duty on individual cigarettes by 60 cents with immediate effect in a bid to encourage Hongkongers to quit smoking. Chan announced the measure during his 2023 budget address at the legislature on Wednesday.

cigarette packs tax duty
HK$12 is added to cigarette packs in Hong Kong following the 2023 budget announcement. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

He said that, before the hike, tax on cigarettes amounted to 62 per cent of the retail price – below the World Health Organisation recommendation of 75 per cent. After Wednesday’s increase, tax accounted for around 68 per cent of the price of a pack of cigarettes.

Chan told lawmakers that the habit was hazardous to health: “Increasing tobacco duty is recognised internationally as the most effective means to reduce tobacco use… A rise in cigarette price will increase the incentive of smokers to reduce or quit smoking.”

Financial Secretary Paul Chan
Financial Secretary Paul Chan (left). Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

In response, Professor Sophia Chan of the University of Hong Kong School of Nursing said “[R]aising tobacco tax is the single most effective measure, which can motivate smokers to quit smoking, preventing relapse among those who recently quit, and deterring youth from smoking initiation. The measure could also reduce healthcare expenditure and productivity loss associated with tobacco use, thereby promoting the sustainable development of public healthcare.” Chan added that she hoped tobacco tax would continue to increase.

Despite inflation, tobacco duty was last increased a decade ago, Chan said: “Our target is to bring the smoking prevalence rate down from the current 9.5 per cent to 7.8 per cent.”

Hong Kong enacted a public smoking ban in 2009.

Alternative smoking products were banned last April.

The 2023 Budget in full:

YouTube video
YouTube video
budget summary 2023

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.