Sugary Beverage

Stakeholders advocate sugar taxation to improve health of Nigerian consumers

*Health experts opine sugar tax will help to improve the health of Nigerian consumers, as there is strong evidence linking consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverages with diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and a rise in health costs

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In a move to help improve the health of the Nigerian consumers and jack up government’s revenue, some key stakeholders in the health sector of the economy have made a case for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) taxation in the country.

The stakeholders in the sector have described the measure as an effective and evidence-based approach to tackling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and promoting public health.

They spoke at the first Webinar Series on Nigeria Pro-Health Taxes with the theme: “Does Nigeria Need Sugar Tax?”, agency report said.

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning

The forum, organised in collaboration with Nigeria Health Watch (NHW), was supported by the National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR), Healthcare Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Cancer Society, report stated.

Recall Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, while presenting the breakdown of the 2022 Budget, had announced an excise tax of N10 per liter on all non-alcoholic, carbonated and sweetened beverages in Nigeria.

Mrs. Ahmed noted that the new tax was introduced to raise excise duties and revenues for health-related, and other critical expenditures in line with the year’s budget priorities.

The primary aim of the tax is to discourage excessive consumption of sugar in beverages which contributes to obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

In her submission at the webinar, Dr. Kate Mandeville, a Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank, said sugar tax would help to improve the health of the population and increase revenue for the country.

Dr. Mandeville said there was strong evidence linking consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverages with diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and a rise in health costs.

According to Mandeville, raising public awareness about the health issues arising from consuming sugary beverages is as important as the price impact for the organisations making the products.

Incentivising organisations to switch to non-sugary products is also important, she noted.

The expert stated like in the United Kingdom (UK), Nigeria’s sugar tax could be a win-win situation for population health and increased domestic revenue in the country.

In her contribution at the seminar, Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director of NHW, also said tax generated from SSBs would result in key outcomes with “a gain for public health by bringing about improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.”

Ihekweazu submitted that earmarking such additional revenues for critical population-based health interventions may contribute to rapidly rebuilding a resilient Nigerian health system.

She further said: “SSBs have little to no nutritional value; so a tax on SSBs should be seen as one component of a comprehensive approach to tackling unhealthy diets.

“Despite any industry push back for this tax, it is important that we safeguard the health of Nigerians.”

Mr. Fola Adeola, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of FATE Foundation, stressed that the high death rate in adults was attributed to consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverages in the country.

The FATE CEO said the government must initiate preventive efforts to save lives of consumers in the economy.

Other stakeholders at the forum as well contended that fiscal policies, such as taxation have enormous potential to promote healthy behavior in Nigeria.

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