The National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) said the introduction of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) will go a long way in improving the health and economic well-being of the country.
It noted that aside from over four million Nigerians living with diabetes, SSBs are the major causes of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Furthermore, in the past 25 years, there has been an almost 400 per cent rise in diabetic cases, especially type 2 diabetes, with more Nigerians being too financially handicapped to afford its treatment and care.
The NASR, a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) advocating for policy measures to tackle the health risks of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, urged the Federal Government to implement the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of 10 to 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
During a Public Lecture in Abuja, hosted by the NASR, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health, with the theme “Funding Diabetes Care through the Implementation of Health Taxes,” a Senior Specialist with the World Bank Nigeria, Dr Olumide Okunola, urged the government to, not only introduce a tax on carbonated drinks but also on the entire spectrum of sugar-sweetened beverages.
He said: “Countries that have enjoyed good health and have achieved Universal Health Coverage (UHC) are able to achieve that because of a significant amount of public financing; government raise finance, allocate and disburse them to the health sector. Nigeria allocates so little to health care.
“Nigeria is one of the largest markets for the SSB product globally. This is a risk factor that is modifiable.
“Benefits of imposing taxes on SSBs include reduction of consumption which improves the health of the population, increases productivity, and the society benefits from the additional financing for the revenue.”
Mrs Felicia Anumah, a Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at the University of Abuja, added: “Diabetes kills more people than HIV and Malaria. The greatest risk of diabetes in Nigeria is obesity. One in every 11 adults has diabetes, and one in two doesn’t know they have diabetes. Also, diabetes does not spare any organs.
“The risk of coming down with diabetes includes ageing (35 years and above), abdominal obesity, overweight/obesity, multiple pregnancy, family history of diabetes, habitually physically inactive, history of delivery of macrosomic baby, and alcohol.”