Stakeholders in Health Sector Make Case for Sugar Tax

Sugar based products

Some key stakeholders in the health sector have made a case for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage(SSB) taxation.

They described it as an effective and evidence-based approach to tackling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and promoting public health.

The stakeholders spoke at the first Webinar Series on Nigeria Pro-Health Taxes with the theme: “Does Nigeria Need Sugar Tax?”

The forum, which was 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.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, 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.

The minister said the new tax was introduced to raise excise duties and revenues for health-related and other critical expenditures in line with the 2022 budget priorities.

Ahmed added that the primary aim of the tax was to discourage excessive consumption of sugar in beverages which contributes to obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

Speaking 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.

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

Mandeville said raising public awareness about the health issues arising from consuming sugary beverages was as important as the price impact for the organisations making the products.

She added that incentivising organisations to switch to non-sugary products was important.

Mandeville said like the United Kingdom, Nigeria’s sugar tax could be a win-win situation for population health and increased domestic revenue in the country.

The Managing Director of NHW, Mrs Vivianne Ihekweazu, 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 said that earmarking such additional revenues for critical population-based health interventions may contribute to rapidly rebuilding a resilient Nigerian health system.

“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,” she noted.

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

According to Adeola, government must initiate preventive efforts to save lives.

Other stakeholders at the forum also argued that fiscal policies such as taxation have enormous potential to promote healthy behavior. (NAN)