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TAXES and tariffs may be the Pacific’s best bet in fighting the growing non communicable disease epidemic. Samoa has introduced tariffs of up to 300 per cent on fatty meat imports and could soon place similar restrictive fees on imported fizzy drinks in an effort to reduce its health bills.

Other countries have started to raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol – two of the major contributors to diabetes in the region. In June, regional health ministers committed to the introduction of national legislation to ensure all Pacific countries and territories meet or exceed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control taxation target and help achieve a Tobacco Free Pacific by 2025. That could see tariffs on cigarettes across the region rise gradually, making cigarettes unaffordable for the least wealthy.

“Whatever we decide to do in terms of addressing NCDs, funding is a very crucial factor,” Cook Islands Minister of Health, Justice and Parliamentary Services, Nandi Glassie, said. “Taxation on tobacco, sugary drinks and alcohol, for example, is one area, and in fact it’s being seen as a positive move so that each country can develop their own form of funding. But from the outset, this is not enough so we’re looking for more assistance from our key development partners.”

Pacific countries and territories at the inaugural Pacific Non-Communicable Tax to turn tide Ministers add to health funding Diseases (NCD) Summit in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, in June expressed their support for a Pacific funding mechanism to better balance responses to the burden of NCDs in the region. For the time being, regional countries and territories have agreed to explore options to establish greater synergies between funding sources. 

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