CMC has reported that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), is urging Caribbean countries to tax tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages, saying that the taxes can help reduce consumption of these products and generate income that can be used to improve the health of the Caribbean population.
On Tuesday, PAHO opened a three-day Caribbean Sub-Regional Workshop on Alcohol, Tobacco and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, bringing together health and finance officials from 17 countries and territories. The Washington-based PAHO said the adoption of these tax measures can contribute to reducing the burden of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and reduce the “devastating social and economic consequences.”
PAHO said, “Implementing taxes on the consumption of unhealthy products requires decisions by health authorities, as well as finance authorities who design tax policies”, and noted that in the Caribbean, non-communicable diseases account for three out of four deaths.
Tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are the main causes of these diseases, when compared to other sub-regions of the Americas; PAHO said Caribbean populations have the highest probability of dying prematurely, between the ages of 30 to 70 years, from one of these non-communicable diseases.
“Taxes can be a very effective tool for not only reducing deaths in the region because of these diseases, but as a source of funding for public health interventions that are necessary to care for or affect affected people,” said Dr Jessie Schutt-Aine, PAHO’s Caribbean Sub-Regional Program Coordinator. “We all win if these measures are applied and more is invested in healthy interventions.”
Currently, PAHO said the use of excise taxation of these products in the Caribbean continues to be limited.