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Tobacco and roadside pollution more dangerous than bird flu

Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Given the rising concern over bird flu, it is worth recalling that there are other bigger killers in Hong Kong. In the past two weeks in which nine deaths have been recorded, Hong Kong’s dirty air has led to 123 avoidable deaths. This is using the Hedley Environmental Index, which calculates there were an average 3,200 avoidable deaths a year in the past five years on account of roadside emissions.

Smoking is an even bigger killer. The University of Hong Kong estimates 7,000 people a year die due to smoking, or an average of 269 every two weeks.

These two sources alone do far more damage than bird flu yet seem to raise far less alarm in the minds of legislators and government. This is why it is particularly galling that there was no increase in the tax on tobacco in this year’s budget. A packet of Marlboro Light costs HK$50 in Hong Kong, HK$76 in Singapore and HK$139 in Brisbane. Increasing tax is considered to be one of the biggest deterrents to smoking among young people, even by the tobacco industry.


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