Sugar tax good for public health – GHAI


By Aluta News

March 14, 2023

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), says taxation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) in Nigeria is a win-win-strategy for public health.

Ms Veronica Schoj, Vice President, Food and Nutrition, GHAI, made the observation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.

She said that it was also a public health solution to tackling diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

“Drinking sugary drinks increases the likelihood of being overweight and excessive sugar intake causes increased risk of diabetes, liver and kidney damage, heart disease and some cancers.

“So, taxing sugary drinks to increase their prices are effective ways to curb the consumption of these harmful drinks and potentially lower the burden on the healthcare system,” she said.

NAN reports that the SSB tax targeted natural and added sweeteners such as brown sugar, corn sweetener and syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.

Others are: soft drinks, juices, nectars, sweetened coffee, sweetened tea, energy drinks, speciality drinks and flavoured dairy.

Schoj said that government could use the revenue generated by the tax increase to improve healthcare.

“We know from growing evidence from countries with an SSB tax that they are an effective way to reduce the consumption of these harmful drinks.

“Data collected from these countries, including South Africa, demonstrated that the well-designed taxes impact on the final prices and make these ultra-processed products less affordable.

“This resulted in a decrease in the consumption of sugary drinks and an increase in the consumption of healthier products like water and savings in healthcare cost,” she said.

The GHAI vice president said that the revenue collected could be used for health programmes.

“In essence, the tax is a win-win-win for government, because it discourages their consumption, encourages consumers to make healthier choices that will improve their health while also funnelling the country with resources to support health measures,” she added.

Schoj said that SSBs contribute to malnutrition and reduce the consumption of nutritious foods.

“That is why SSB taxes not only protect the health of entire population, but is particularly useful to protecting the most vulnerable socioeconomic groups that are more affected by malnutrition and non communicable diseases,” she said.

According to her, SSBs companies produce ultra-processed beverages that have huge impact on health, generate significant environmental damage through excessive use of water and plastic contamination, among others.

“That is why policies that look for the reduction of the consumption of SSBs to protect human and planetary health is very essential,” she said.

According to her, Civil Society Organisations and the media should keep educating the public and policymakers on the health and environmental harms of sugary drinks.

Schoj said that the public education should heighten awareness on why sugary drinks were a leading cause of non-communicable diseases in a country and how the tax would be used to tackle the diseases.