Health Experts Call for Higher Taxes on Tobacco, Alcohol and Sweet Drinks

Authorities in St Lucia are being encouraged to impose higher taxes on tobacco, alcoholic and sweetened beverages to help reduce the burden of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer.

The advice is coming from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

PAHO believes that higher taxes can help reduce consumption of these unhealthy products and generate income that can be used to improve the health of the population.

The idea is being proposed to health and finance officials from throughout the Caribbean who are attending the Caribbean Sub-regional Workshop on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Barbados May 16-18.

In the Caribbean, non-communicable diseases account for three out of four deaths, officials say. Tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are the main causes of these diseases.

Health experts say compared to other sub-regions of the Americas, 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, Caribbean Sub-regional Program Coordinator. “We all win if these measures are applied and more is invested in healthy interventions.”

In 2013, the countries of the Americas committed themselves to reduce by 25% the premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases by the year 2025. The measures included in the Plan of Action to achieve this objective include implementation of taxes.

Of the 14 PAHO member countries in this sub-region, 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.

However, PAHO says, of the 11 countries that have taxes on tobacco, none reaches the level recommended by World Health Organization of more than 70% of the final sales price.

Officials say taxation cannot be applied alone, and should be part of a comprehensive policy to reduce consumption of these products, which also involves restrictions on marketing, packaging conditions, sharing appropriate nutrition information to inform consumers, and creating healthy environments, among others.


  1. Anonymous
    May 17, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Yes!!! Totally agree. I’ve been saying this for years. It’s bad for the health.

  2. Anonymous
    May 17, 2017 at 8:07 am

    I agree fully!!!!!

  3. Anon1
    May 17, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Bravo to that, this should have been initiated at least 10 years ago.

    One product left off the list was SUGAR, as a stand alone commodity.

    Ideally we should make alcohol illegal, some may laugh at my suggestion.

    But guess what, the number 1 cause of deaths in St Lucia (bar homicides and vehicular accidents) abuse and over indulgence of alcohol and sugar.

    Yet, we keep cannabis illegal and there hasn’t been one death which cannabis abuse or use can be attributed as the cause!

    Don’t take my word seek the data from either he Ministry of Health and or the Statistics Department.

  4. Anonymous
    May 17, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I totally agree

  5. Lucianman101
    May 17, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Even though i’m a heavy “Social Drinker” i concur with this suggestion

  6. Anonymous
    May 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    You cannot tax people into good health practices.

    1. cc
      May 26, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      it has to be conscious… ah the news taglined; “Health experts” i’m left to wonder. taxint it will only create more broken homes and child support issues. it had to be an education issue.

  7. cc
    May 26, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    all this proves that tobacco and alcohol is the real killer yet..marijuana remains illegal with tobacco being sold all over killing lives.