By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
A Public health Physician and founder of TalkHealth9ja, Dr. Laz Ude Eze said taxes on carbonated drinks will definitely go a long way to beat up and reduce communicable diseases in Nigeria .
Dr. Eze expressed that, such policies will also helped in boosting economic productivity in the country.
He explained that”in Nigeria, the consumption of SSBs is a leading risk factor for NCD-related deaths.
According to a 2016 global soft drinks market analysis, Nigeria is the fourth highest consumer in the world market for soft drinks, coming after the United States, China and Mexico.
With about 38.7 million litres of soft drinks sold yearly and a rising trend in the obesity figures, Nigeria is currently a minefield of NCD-related deaths”,he disclosed.
He said are many of the documented risk factors associated with NCDs are lifestyle and choice-based.
“Behavioural risk factors like excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), inadequate physical activity, tobacco smoking and high caloric intake. None of this has been helped by the urban sedentary lifestyle and diet transition to processed foods and beverages.”.
He stated that at the policy level in Nigeria, several instruments are in place to address the root causes of communicable diseases and road traffic injuries, which have been arguably successful.
“For NCDs, this is still a work-in-progress. Despite the WHO statistics on the number of deaths resulting from NCDs in Nigeria, this health crisis is yet to be considered a national priority. Millions of Nigerians live with and die from type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, fatty liver disease, tooth decay, gout arthritis and increased risk of cancers. Besides the loss of lives, several billions of dollars are lost to healthcare and productivity costs”.
He pointed out that, the SSB tax policies worked because they operate on a population level to create an environment that empowers many people to practice healthy behaviours rather than only a few. This is not a novel idea anymore, countries all over the world have been taxing SSBs with great results. Mexico, for instance, recorded a 9.5% reduction in the purchase of SSBs in 2015, a year after the 1 peso per litre excise tax was introduced. Nigeria came close to introducing a similar levy on SSBs but suspended it in 2009 due to industry pressure and global economic concerns”.
He said clear labels that carry out warnings such as “Excessive sugar consumption increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes” should accompany every SSB product and advertising. Schools and workplaces should provide healthier SSB alternatives.
He described that despite the harsh economic situation and the burden of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, doing nothing about NCDs is not an option. “Consequently, I am excited that the Federal Government has announced a “pro-health” tax increase on soft drinks in Nigeria in the 2022 budget. This tax will enable revenue generation for health programs, especially those targeted at addressing NCDs.”
“A 2014 study by Wang Y.C et al found that a 20% tax raise on SSB prices can reduce consumption by around 20%. Two years after South Africa introduced its health promotion levy targeting SSBs, a study by PRICELESS-SA reported that the “sugar tax” led to a reduction in consumption, while taxes from consumers have been used to strengthen the country’s health system. Nigeria can do the same”.