Health advocates under the umbrella body National Action on Sugar Reduction, NASR have condemned recent actions taken by the beverage industry in an attempt to exorcise the 10 naira per litre sweetened beverage tax from the Finance Act noting that Sugar-sweetened beverages are harmful to health and consumption must be discouraged.
In a statement signed by President, Nigeria Cancer Society and Co-Chair, National Action on Sugar Reduction, NASR Coalition, Dr Adamu Alhassan Umar explained that leaders from the beverage industry appeared before Senate President Ahmad Lawan making claims that the tax is jeopardising their industry.
According to Umar, the beverage industry is going to great lengths to protect its profits, and the claims that the excise taxes will collapse it are utterly unfounded.
He noted that despites the negative effect of soft drinks on the body, the soft drink industry has long avoided paying excise taxes, even though other health-harming commodities like tobacco and alcohol have been subject to taxation.
‘‘Sugar-sweetened beverages are harmful to health; taxes will encourage people to consume less and protect their health. Soft drinks are the major source of added sugar in the diet. They are packed with calories and provide no nutrition to the body. In fact, they negatively affect the body’s health by increasing obesity and the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
‘‘It is only right that the beverage industry pays taxes to cover the negative externalities that the health system is forced to bear as a result of their products’ NCD-inducing qualities.
‘‘NCDs account for one in three deaths in Nigeria. One of the biggest problems with NCDs is that when they strike, they usually last for the remainder of the patient’s life. A person who has suffered a stroke, or who is living with type 2 diabetes or heart disease, must purchase medicines regularly or risk disease complications. People living with diabetes, for instance, risk limb amputation, blindness and kidney failure.
‘‘The beverage manufacturers mentioned none of this during their presentation to the Senate. The issue on the table was profit, industry profit. In making unsubstantiated claims of economic losses, the beverage industry has firmly established that it bears little regard for public health. There is no evidence that sugary drink taxes lead to economic losses or falling profits. In places where sugar-sweetened beverages have been taxed, the industry has continued to generate profits. South Africa and Mexico offer clear examples. Even Nigeria’s alcohol industry, in spite of taxation, posted enormous profits in the past quarter.’’ he said.
The statement however noted that Sugar-sweetened beverage taxes make sense for public health as the National Action on Sugar Reduction coalition called on Senate President Ahmad Lawan to priorities the nation’s public health by supporting the increase of the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
‘‘Nigeria is the 5th cheapest place for soft drinks in the world. Soft drinks are accessible and affordable. It is these factors that make them dangerous. With no forces to restrain consumption, it will occur in excess and endanger public health.
‘‘Beverage manufacturers refuse to admit their products have catastrophic effects on health, and continue to market them without concern for the negative effects on public health and on the economy. If SSB taxes are removed, Nigeria’s urban poor will come out the worst because they will continue to buy soft drinks that harm their health and end up with diseases that neither their meagre personal funds nor the country’s underfunded health system will be able to afford.
‘‘The National Action on Sugar Reduction coalition calls on Senate President Ahmad Lawan to prioritise the nation’s public health by supporting the increase of the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The health benefits that accrue from this will undoubtedly serve the nation’s poorest and foster economic prosperity’’