St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere, is contemplating a tax increase on high-sugar foods and drinks, salt and trans fats.
The proposal is aimed at improving the health of citizens in the Caribbean nation.
St.Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, emphasized that the government is concerned about the health security of its citizens.
“I want to encourage our residents and citizens to pay greater attention to their health and wellness,” he said during his monthly press conference, adding that “prevention is still better and cheaper than the cure.”
Harris noted that Caribbean island nations suffer from the highest rates of morbidity and mortality resulting from severe, noncommunicable diseases in the entire Western Hemisphere, including hypertension, diabetes, cancer and obesity.
In 2016, Caribbean Community, CARICOM, Prime Ministers offered suggestions at addressing health problems in the region. They included prohibiting advertisements of harmful foods and banning smoking in public areas.
CARICOM heads also suggested elevating taxes on harmful foods as a deterrent.
“The financial secretary will say [it] was not her recommendation to elevate the tax on foods high in sugar, salt and transfats as a revenue measure, but for the deterrent effect it is perceived that this could have,” Harris said.
He also advised that there’s a growing body of literature “supporting the effectiveness of fiscal policies such as these in reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods, drinks and substances, so my cabinet will be looking at this in a very serious way.”
Dr. Damien Cohall, a lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of the West Indies, joined by David M. Cutler, Roland G. Fryer Jr. and Edward L. Glaeser of Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, have produced research that links the underlying racial differences in cases of high blood pressure (salt sensitivity) and other illnesses to the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and subsequent living conditions.
In a paper titled “Racial Differences in Life Expectancy: The Impact of Salt, Slavery, and Selection,” Cutler, Fryer, and Glaeser concluded the following: 1) Black descendants of the slave trade are more salt sensitive (the main cause of high blood pressure) than whites and than Black people in Africa, 2) Black descendants of the slave trade have higher blood pressure than whites and Black people in Africa, 3) African immigrants have better health than Black descendants of the slave trade.