Taxing tobacco to save lives

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is calling on Caribbean countries to raise taxes on tobacco to encourage users to stop and to prevent other people from becoming addicted to it.

Based on 2012 data, PAHO estimates that if all countries increased tobacco taxes by 50 percent, they could reduce the number of smokers by 49 million within the next three years and ultimately save ll million lives.

“Every six seconds someone dies from using tobacco, which kills half its users,” PAHAO said in a statement.

“It also incurs considerable costs for families, businesses and governments. Treating tobacco-related disease like heart disease is expensive, as tobacco-related disease and death often strikes people in the prime of their working lives, productivity and incomes fall,” it said.

PAHO said several countries in the Americas have made progress in implementing tobacco price and tax measures.

Nevertheless, “much work needs to be done in the region where few countries have met the recommended 75 percent tax level on the final price of tobacco products recommended by PAHO and the WHO (World Health Organization),” said Adriana Blanco, PAHO adviser on tobacco control.

PAHO said high prices have proven particularly effective in discouraging young people, who often have more limited incomes than older adults, from taking up smoking.

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