Constituent policy

How politics can boost Nigeria’s fight against non-communicable diseases

The recent announcement of an excise tax of N10 per liter on all soft drinks, carbonated and sugary drinks by the Government of Nigeria has been met with mixed reactions.

Finance and Budget Planning Minister Zainab Ahmed, during the presentation of the 2022 budget breakdown, made the announcement, saying it was part of the government’s efforts to prevent and discourage excessive consumption of sugar in beverages, which contributes to obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.

But while part of Nigeria believe the new policy will result in higher drink prices for ordinary men and women on the streets, there are health experts and activists who believe it was a long overdue policy.

In this report, PREMIUM TIMES examines available verifiable statistics to assess the possible implications of the government’s latest decision.

What the statistics say

Several studies have linked excessive consumption of sugar and sugary drinks (SSB) to obesity, type 2 diabetes, overweight, cardiovascular disease and other non-communicable diseases.

According to the estimates of world Bank indicated.

Among the various diseases associated with x, obesity and overweight come out on top as they are linked to other health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and stroke.

A World Bank report released in 2020 said obesity-related diseases are now among the top three causes of death worldwide.

In fact, obesity and overweight are considered a modern disease. epidemic in most parts of the world. They are described as the most serious public health challenges facing the world today, including Nigeria.

In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide were overweight, of which more than 650 million suffered from obesity. These diseases are also responsible for more than four million deaths every year.

If this trend continues, by 2030 it is estimated that 38% of the world’s adult population will be overweight and a further 20% will be obese, according to a report published on pharmacoeconomics shows.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the world’s population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has over 12 millions people considered obese in 2020with a significantly higher prevalence in women.

However, health experts believe that Nigeria’s recently introduced ‘sugar tax’ will not only tackle obesity but help reduce deaths from other non-communicable diseases.

“The rate at which non-communicable diseases, particularly obesity, diabetes mellitus and cancers, are causing very high morbidity and mortality in Nigeria is worrying, and the previous government is doing something to reverse the negative trend, better this is for all of us,” one audience said. health expert, Adamu Alhassan, said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

About the SSB tax

Speaking on the new tax on sugary drinks, the finance minister said the initiative would ‘discourage the excessive consumption of sugar in drinks which contributes to a number of health problems including diabetes and obesity “.

SSB is classified as a liquid containing natural or added sweeteners, including various forms of sugars such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, corn syrup high fructose, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar and sucrose.

These can include soft drinks, juices, nectars, sweetened coffee, sweetened tea, energy drinks, specialty drinks, and flavored dairy products.

Consumption of sugary drinks in Nigeria

In Africa, Nigeria boasts of being the largest consumer of soft drinks, according to data from Statisticala global analytics company.

Data from the analysis shows that Nigerians consume about 40 million liters of soft drinks annually.

An analysis of the 2016 global soft drinks market indicates that Nigeria is the fourth largest consumer of soft drinks in the world, after the United States, China and Mexico.

While some stakeholders are against the government’s decision to introduce the N10 per liter tax, others believe it will discourage people from taking too many soft drinks which have negative effects on their health.

Nigeria is not the first country to impose an excise tax on SSB. More than 50 countries have already introduced taxes on sugary drinks to reduce the consumption of these drinks and also encourage manufacturers to reduce their sugar content.

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Strong evidence has confirmed a decline in the consumption of sugary drinks following the introduction of the tax in many jurisdictions, including the UK (2018), Mexico (2014), South Africa (2018) and the United Kingdom. Chile (2014).

Reducing NCDs in Nigeria

Epidemiological studies have shown that people who consume a higher amount of added sugars than the recommended less than 10% of total calories tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of obesity.

Mr. Alhassan, the public health expert, said the tax on sugary drinks is timely as it would serve as a major tool to tackle the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the country.

He stated that it is scientifically verifiable that obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and other non-communicable diseases are directly linked to cancers and therefore to the vicious cycle if the consumption of sugary drinks is not reduced or moderate in the country.

Mr. Alhassan explained that the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages accounts for a large and growing part of the burden of premature death and disease in Nigeria.

“Unhealthy diets contribute significantly to the increased risk of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and cancers.

“This further reinforces that the tax on sugary drinks should be seen as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling unhealthy diets and tackling diet-related non-communicable diseases,” he said. he declares.

In a letter supporting the government’s decision, a group of academics led by the world’s leading experts in economics, medicine and public health said that SSB often has no nutritional value.

The researchers said hundreds of studies have shown how BSS adds to total calorie intake and negatively impacts not only children and adults, but infants as well.

He said the sugars in sugary drinks alter the body’s metabolism, affecting insulin, cholesterol and metabolites that cause high blood pressure and inflammation.

“These body changes increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental caries and liver disease,” he said.

“Use taxation to fight NCDs”

Alhassan said the government should channel SSB tax revenue into key preventative measures against obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

He said proper use of the accrued income would go a long way towards positively altering the alarming NCD statistics in the country.

“Given the alarming statistics of these diseases worldwide, it has therefore become imperative for the government to channel the revenue generated from these taxes into the formulation of policies for these groups of diseases and campaigns for prevention and other benefits. direct benefits for people affected by these diseases,” he said.

A health coalition, National Action on Sugar (NASR), in a statement obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, hails the government’s efforts to reduce sugar-related illnesses in Nigeria.

The coalition calls for revenues to be invested in the health sector to fight non-communicable diseases.

“The Coalition sees the tax as a protective measure for Nigeria’s poorest, a population that will benefit the most from a reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks.

“Tax revenues can be used to reduce the growing burden of disease on the poor and on the country’s health system,” the statement said.

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