The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is urging Caribbean countries to tax tobacco and alcohol saying that the taxes would help reduce consumption of these products and generate income that can be used to improve the health of the Caribbean population.
The suggestion was made during a three-day PAHO Caribbean Sub-regional Workshop on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Sugar-sweetened beverages, which brought together health and finance officials from 17 countries and territories in Barbados.
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 decision by health authorities, as well as finance authorities who design tax policies.
The Health Organization noted that in the Caribbean von-communicable diseases account for three out of four deaths.
PAHO said Caribbean population has the highest probability of dying prematurely, between the ages of 30 to 70 years, from one of these non-communicable diseases.
Currently, PAHO said the use of excise taxation of these products in the Caribbean continues to be limited.
Out of the 14 PAHO members in this region, PAHO said 11 have excise taxes on tobacco, 11 on alcohol and two countries- Barbados and Dominica- recently implemented sugar taxation as a way to deal with the obesity epidemic.