Public Health Experts have demanded an increment in the taxation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) with the aim of reducing the health implications and risks associated with the consumption of SSB.
The experts made the demand while speaking at a webinar organized by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) to commemorate World Diabetes Day 2022.
Nigerian Coordinator for the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Joy Amafah, while giving an overview of Nigeria’s Legal Landscape on SSB tax explained that the Finance Act 2021 introduced a new subsection in the Customs Act which includes excise duty charges on non-alcoholic, carbonated, and sweetened beverages at the rate of N10 per liter.
Amafah said “while the current sugar-sweetened beverage tax law is a welcome development and needs to be strengthened as the tax rate of 10 per liter is incompatible with the 20% benchmark recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and makes no express provision on the modalities for reducing consumption of sugary or sweet drinks holistically.
She noted that it is essential that the SSB tax legislation is amended to make it consistent with global best practices and effectively implementable and that it should not be less than 20% of the retail price of the drinks so that it can have a meaningful impact.
Amafah recommended that the Federal Government sets up comprehensive stand-alone legislation on SSB while it leverages the existing NAFDAC regulations with provisions for labelling of soft drinks, sugar contents of fruit juice, and food products.
Dr. Francis Fagbule, a public health consultant with the University College Hospital, Ibadan while making his presentation on Nigeria’s Rising Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Burden and Public Health Challenges, lamented the astronomical rise in Nigeria’s disease burden which puts the increase in prevalence at 150%.
Fagbule who said SSB has little or no nutritional value stressed that it is causing public health challenges which in turn overburdens the country’s health system with multi-faceted effects on individuals and the governments.
He however expressed the need for more evidence generation to drive home the message of harm done by the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Nigeria.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi identified some of the health issues associated with the excessive consumption of SSBs which include weight gain leading to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases, among others.
Oluwafemi said “studies show that about 39% of all deaths are related to NCDs, because of unhealthy lifestyles including diet (excessive consumption of sugar), and sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity). The launch of Nigeria’s multi-sectoral action plan 2019-2025 for the prevention of NCDs, has a policy document that listed the cause of NCD as the consumption of sugar.”
He reiterated that the N10 per liter tax on SSB is lower than the recommended WHO standard, stating the need to ensure that the SSB tax is institutionalized, sustained, reviewed upwardly, and earmarked for the health sector.
He mentioned that the taxes if increased, can serve as a source of revenue and can be used to address some of the challenges being faced in other sectors.
The webinar also witnessed the launch of a National coalition on Policy Advocacy on SSB Tax which comprises of civil society members, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, health advocacy groups, professional bodies, and the media.