The Hong Kong government’s claims on success in the war on smoking are in question after the 2nd Population Health Report hid a rise in daily cigarette smoking prevalence to 14.8% in 2014/2015, claiming instead smoking rates had fallen.
In the report from the Department of Health, the government claims the smoking rate has dropped from 16.3% in 2004/2005 to 14.8% in 2014/2015. It awards itself a “smiley face” with the comment “Some improvements in smoking prevalence”.
However, the comparison with 2003/2004 is misleading, as the 2003/2004 figure includes all smoking (including pipes, water pipes, rolls-ups etc), while the 2014/2015 figures pertain only to cigarettes. The actual cigarette smoking rate in 2003/2004 was 14.7%, lower than the 14.8% found in 2014/2015, and indicating a rise in cigarette smoking since the 1st Population Health Survey.
The numbers also conflict with last year’s oft-touted data from the Census Department that daily smoking rates had fallen to 10.5%. For example, according to the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), “smoking prevalence in Hong Kong has gradually dropped from 23.3% to 10.5% in 2015, which is one of the lowest in the world.”
Data manipulation aside, the numbers make depressing reading. According to the 2nd Population Health Survey, over 25% of Hong Kong men smoke. Meanwhile over one-third (35.5%) of persons who had ever smoked cigarette started smoking at age below 18 years old, including 6.8% who started smoking younger than 14 years old.