Sunday 23 September, 2018

Taxing bad habits to cut NCDs not enough

PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries Beryl Ions Higher

PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries Beryl Ions Higher

Implementing taxes or heavier taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sweetened drinks without enforcement makes little to no sense.

At the two-day meeting happening in Barbados now, Sub-regional Programme Coordinator for the Caribbean, PAHO/WHO Jessie Schut Aine said it is important to have this discussion again because there is an urgent need for creating an enabling environment for health and wellness across the Caribbean.

She stressed it is not enough to talk about taxation in countries if it will not be implemented.

Last year at the CARICOM Heads of Government 37th Meeting, Heads issued decision points requesting member states to support harm reduction by taxation of tobacco, alcohol and salt and sugar foods containing transfats.

And Aine said that in February this year, and in a direct response to the Heads, CARICOM Institutions met to advance the implementation of the Heads decision points, the childhood obesity and the six-point policy package.

The sub-regional Workshop aimed at discussing how taxing alcohol, tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages as a cost-effective health measure for the prevention and control of NCD’s in the Caribbean convened this morning at The Accra Beach Hotel and Spa.

By way of the forum, Caribbean countries will present their experiences and identify technical assistance, evidence needs and opportunities to advance in implementing taxes on the alcohol, tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages.

PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries Beryl Ions Higher added that tobacco taxes are a central element of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control while alcohol pricing policies, including taxation, which she said is one of the recommended policy areas put forward in the WHO Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.

“The PAHO Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity in children and adolescents includes fiscal policies to reduce children and adolescents´ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages,” she further states.

Officials from 17 Caribbean countries and territories with the exception of Haiti and 4 Dutch Islands are attending the workshop. Organisers say every country in the region is being represented.