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PAHO urges Caribbean to raise tobacco taxes to save lives

Thursday, June 05, 2014    

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WASHINGTON, United States, CMC — The Pan American Health Organisation (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 per cent, they could reduce the number of smokers by 49 million within the next three years and ultimately save 11 million lives.

"Every six seconds someone dies from using tobacco, which kills up to half its users," PAHO said in a statement.

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

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 per cent tax level on the final price of tobacco products recommended by PAHO and WHO (World Health Organisation)," said Adriana Blanco, PAHO advisor on tobacco control.

"In many countries, tobacco prices remain low and affordable, especially for young people, which is of particular concern," she added.

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.

"They also encourage existing young smokers to either reduce their use of tobacco or quit altogether," PAHO said.

In September 2011, world leaders adopted a UN Political Declaration on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at the United Nations General Assembly.

Since then, PAHO noted that a global agenda has been set, based on nine concrete global NCD targets for 2025 organised around the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020.

"The plan comprises a set of actions which, when performed collectively by Member States, UN agencies and WHO, will help to achieve the global target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025 and a 30 percent reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use," PAHO said.

The WHO global action plan indicates that making tobacco products less affordable by increasing tobacco taxes is a very cost-effective and affordable intervention for all member states.

The United Nations will hold a comprehensive review on the prevention and control of NCDs on July 10-11, 2014 in New York.

PAHO said the review will provide a "timely opportunity for rallying political support for the acceleration of actions by governments, international partners and WHO included in its global action plan, including raising tobacco taxes".

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