The Federal Government has expressed its readiness to raise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) from the current rate of 10 percent to 20 percent.
The SSB tax, embedded in the Finance Act of 2021, levies a N10 tax on each litre of all non-alcoholic and sugar-sweetened carbonated drinks, as part of efforts to discourage excessive consumption of sugar, which contributes to the burden of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, among others.
But, stakeholders have repeatedly urged the government to raise the tax, saying the current rate has not achieved the impact as SSBs as still affordable and consumption is still high.
Chukwuma Anyaike, director/head, public health department, federal ministry of health, on Tuesday, acknowledged that the current N10 per litre fails to achieve the goal of reducing consumption and ultimately the burden of NCDs.
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She said this at a pro-Health Tax Policy Campaign on SSB, in Abuja convened by the National Action on Sugar Reduction Coalition (NASR).
“The introduction and sustenance of the tax in Nigeria will also reduce excess consumption of SSBs and thus reducing the burden of NCDs. We are committed to attain the global best practice at least 20 percent of the final retail price on all SSBs as the current 10 naira per litre price fails to achieve that”, she said.
She expressed concern that SSBs were readily available and have been found to be the leading source of added sugar with Nigeria being the largest consumer of SSBs in the world.
“Excess consumption of Sugar-sweetened beverages has become a significant public health concern and a threat to the future generation as its consumption is high among children and adolescents. Nigeria is a low and meddle-income country where more than 70 percent of the populace pay for health expenditure out of pocket and among countries with 77 percent of the global 41 million deaths caused by NCDs”, the director said.
Edozie Chukwuma,, a representative of NASR, while stressing that sugary drinks were a leading cause of NCDs like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases as well as obesity which are also fatal, urged the government to increase tax on sugary drinks, and enact a pro-health tax that channels revenue from taxation of sugary drinks to funding of healthcare.
“The WHO recommends at least 20 percent to ensure this taxation is passed to the consumers in such a way that it elevates the prices of sugary drinks are not affordable, and forcing people to choose healthier alternatives
“If consumption of sugary drinks, which is cheap, affordable, and accessible by the middle to low- income earners, at the end of the day, they come down with NCDs. It is only justifiable that taxing what is killing Nigerians, the proceeds be used to also alleviate the burden of NCDs”, he said.