TOBACCO DUTY HIKE PROPOSED

28-2-2024

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Financial Secretary Paul Chan today proposed in his 2024-25 Budget to increase the duty on cigarettes by $0.8 per stick, while duties on other tobacco products have been increased by the same proportion with immediate effect.

Delivering his Budget, Mr Chan pointed out that increasing the tobacco duty is recognised internationally as the most effective means of reducing tobacco use.

He noted that the rate of increase is similar to that of last year.

“We expect that the proportion of tobacco duty in the retail price of cigarettes will rise to about 70%, gradually approaching the 75% level recommended by the World Health Organization. This will provide a greater incentive for the public to quit smoking, safeguarding public health.”

Mr Chan also noted that the Government attaches great importance to the well-being of members of the public and is committed to maintaining Hong Kong’s high-quality healthcare profession and its efficient healthcare system.

The 2024-25 estimated recurrent expenditure for healthcare is $109.5 billion, accounting for about 19% of government recurrent expenditure.

“The Government will continue to pursue transformation with innovation, with a view to protecting the health of all citizens, further developing primary healthcare, enhancing the quality of medical services and promoting the development of the healthcare industry.”

He added that the Government is pressing ahead with the construction of the Chinese Medicine Hospital and the Government Chinese Medicines Testing Institute. Both are expected to begin service, in phases, starting from the end of 2025.

The finance chief also announced measures to build a caring and inclusive community.

For youth development, the Government has set aside some $680 million to support the Vocational Training Council in enhancing vocational and professional education and training (VPET).

The Pilot Incentive Scheme to Employers and the Pilot Subsidy Scheme for Students of Professional Part-time Programmes will be extended for five years.

The Government has also set aside a startup fund of $100 million to support self-financing, post-secondary institutions in forming an Alliance of Universities in Applied Sciences for joint publicity and promotion of VPET, and to raise the status of VPET among parents, students and society in general.

On caring for the elderly, Mr Chan said the number of Community Care Service Vouchers (CCSVs) will increase to 11,000 in 2024-25, involving an annual expenditure of about $900 million.

From the second quarter, the number of Residential Care Service Vouchers (RCSVs) for the elderly will increase to 5,000. The RCSV scheme for the Elderly will involve an annual expenditure of about $1.44 billion.

Separately, the Government will allocate funding of about $130 million from the Community Care Fund to implement a three-year pilot scheme starting from the third quarter to provide an additional subsidy of $500 per month for employed disabled recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance as an incentive for employment. The scheme is expected to benefit some 6,800 people.

Mr Chan also outlined that the Government attaches great importance to women’s development. To assist working families in childbearing, the Government will set up 10 more aided, standalone child-care centres, in phases, starting this year.

The target is to provide nearly 900 additional places for child day-care services within three years.

The Government will also extend the After School Care Programme for Pre-primary Children in phases, starting this year, to cover all districts in Hong Kong. The number of service places will increase to nearly 1,200 within three years.




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