The Federal Ministry of Health has expressed commitment to increase tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) from the current rate of 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
This is in a bid to combat the rising public health concerns associated with excessive sugar consumption.
The Ministry added that the tax would deter consumers from purchasing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and instead, encourage healthier beverages as alternatives.
The Director and Head, Public Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, disclosed this at the Pro-Health Tax Policy Campaign on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, held at the Federal Ministries of Finance and Health respectively on Tuesday, in Abuja.
She said, “Taxation on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages has been successfully implemented in countries like Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, and so many others to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.
“The introduction and sustenance of the tax in Nigeria will also reduce excess consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and thus reduce the burden of NCDs. We are committed to attaining the global best practice of at least 20% of the final retail price on all Sugar-Sweetened Beverages as the current 10 naira per liter price fails to achieve that. This campaign aligns with other government efforts in improving the public health of the Nigerian populace to meet up with the global priority of significantly reducing NCDs”, she said.
Peter Agada, who spoke on behalf of persons with diabetes, advised Nigerians to stay off carbonated drinks, saying that the cost of purchasing the products is cheap but the cost of treating diabetes is more expensive.
He called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, subsidise the cost of diabetes management, including medications and monitoring devices, to reduce preventable deaths.
He said “If there’s anything the government can do, things like making the health insurance scheme easily accessible to people that are non-government staff like myself; I am not in the government. I don’t work in the public sector. But I don’t have an NHIS for example. I know that there are several people now providing that service, but it’s not easily available to the majority of people.
“One out of 17 Nigerians are living with diabetes or are pre-diabetes, and are going to become diabetic very, very soon. So, this is a pandemic and diabetes is a killer disease. We’re not looking at it that way. It’s a destroyer of lives all over the world right now. People are losing their limbs, eyes, and all kinds of things. So, it’s something that makes you to really wake up and take it very seriously.”
On his part, a representative of the National Action and Sugar Reduction Coalition, Edozie Chukwuma, reiterated the need for the current administration to increase the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages tax as part of an effort to discourage patronage of sweetened products.
He said, “Basically, we’re calling on the government to enact laws to put together a tax that prohibits or that would, in the end, reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, and how will this tax work?
“It simply works by increasing the affordability of sugary drinks, thereby providing revenue that could be used to support healthcare, especially with regards to non-communicable disease burden in the country. It is an epidemic and it needs to be addressed. Out-of-pocket payments are at an all-time high, with over 75% of Nigerians paying from their pockets for treatment of different ailments”.