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Kuwait considers proposals to raise tobacco tax, cancel sugar subsidy
July 13, 2014, 12:05 am

Kuwait's Ministry of Health is considering proposals to ask the government to increase tax on tobacco products and cancel subsidized sugar from citizenry's monthly ration with a view to helping control non-communicable diseases (NCDs), said MoH Undersecretary Khaled Al-Sahlawi.

"The Ministry is considering a number of ideas, before presenting them to the cabinet to take a decision, to end government's subsidy on sugar while providing people with a healthier alternative," Al-Sahlawi told KUNA after partaking in a high-level UN meeting to undertake a comprehensive review and assessment on the prevention and control of NCDs.

"These ideas also include increasing tax on tobacco products to reduce smoking as Kuwait has one of the world's lowest tobacco tax rates."    Al-Sahlawi pointed out that the Ministry of Health is cooperating with the Ministry of Education to raise student awareness about the dangers of smoking on public health.

He unveiled that the government has already managed to persuade bakeries to reduce salt in bread by 20 percent to prevent high blood pressure and other vascular diseases. The moves are part of great efforts exerted by the government and Ministry of Health to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, he said.

Al-Sahlawi underlined the importance of civil society contributions to the national efforts to control NCDs. He lauded that the civil society's role in helping the Ministry of Health spread awareness about the NCDs and its causes and how to raise children in a healthy way to protect them against the NCDs.  It also educates people about the danger of smoking, alcohol and drugs addiction as the importance physical fitness and health lifestyles, he said.

On Thursday, Al-Sahlawi delivered Kuwait's speech at the UN meeting on behalf of the Minister of Health Ali Al-Obaidi. Al-Obaidi's speech highlighted Kuwaiti government measures, initiatives, programs and plans to prevent and control the spread of the non-communicable diseases.

He also reiterated Kuwait's commitment to put in place the UN-recommended mechanisms to NCDs.   On the regional and international levels, he pointed out that Kuwait is cooperating with all governments in the region and world as well as with relevant regional and international organizations to speed up the implementation of the 2011 UN Political Declaration on control and prevention of the NCDs.

The UN meeting, held on July 10-11, took stock of the progress made in implementing the commitments in the 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs, tackled gaps and reaffirmed the political commitment in response to the challenge of NCDs.  A non-communicable disease, or NCD, is a medical condition or disease, which by definition is non-infectious and non-transmissible among people.

NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, or they may result in more rapid death such as some types of sudden stroke. They include autoimmune diseases, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and more. According to the World Health Organization (Who), the NCDs kill more than 36 million people each year.

It is estimated that up to two thirds of these premature deaths from NCDs are linked to exposure to risk factors - namely, tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol - with the remaining third of all such deaths linked to weak health systems that do not respond effectively and equitably to the health-care needs of people with NCDs - principally cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes

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