TACO collaborates with police and Housing Department to combat distribution of smoking product leaflets in public housing estates

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28th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) To address the issue of smoking product leaflet distribution in public housing estates, the Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office (TACO) of the Department of Health (DH) has intensified enforcement efforts. Today, in collaboration with the Police and the Housing Department (HD), TACO conducted joint operations in two public housing estates in Sham Shui Po District, focusing on inspections and public awareness campaigns. Alongside patrolling activities, TACO officers provided estate security personnel and residents with guidance on responding to suspected violations. Three members of the Sham Shui Po District Council also participated in the operation, reminding residents to comply with the law.

Under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap. 371), it is prohibited to distribute any smoking product advertisements, including promotional leaflets. Violators are subject to a maximum fine of $50,000. In 2023, TACO received approximately 21,130 complaints related to the Ordinance, with around 1,070 complaints (accounting for roughly 5% of the total) involving the distribution of smoking product advertisements. TACO will continue to conduct interdepartmental operations, thoroughly investigate all complaints regarding the distribution of smoking product advertisements, and refer cases involving illicit cigarettes, which violate the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance (Cap. 109), to the relevant authorities for further examination.

Since the beginning of this year, TACO has already carried out joint operations with the Police and the HD in 29 housing estates across different districts of Hong Kong. Furthermore, in February, four additional joint operations were conducted in collaboration with the Customs and Excise Department to combat the sale of illicit cigarettes and related promotional activities in public housing estates. TACO, the Police, and the HD have established a cooperative mechanism specifically targeting the distribution of smoking product leaflets in these estates. Whenever such leaflets are detected, housing estate staff will promptly contact the Police for assistance and subsequently refer the case to TACO for further investigation. Since 2021, TACO has successfully prosecuted 12 offenders (involved in 13 cases) for distributing smoking product leaflets, with the highest penalty imposed being a fine of $8,000.

Emphasising their commitment to strict enforcement, a spokesperson from the DH highlighted the department’s continuous vigilance against Ordinance violations, including the distribution of smoking product advertisements. The spokesperson reiterated the substantial health risks associated with all tobacco products, regardless of their duty status. Smokers are strongly encouraged to quit smoking as early as possible, both for their own well-being and the well-being of others. Comprehensive information on smoking cessation can be obtained from the website www.livetobaccofree.hk.