The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) has hailed the Federal Government’s taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in the country as a win-win strategy for public health, government revenue, and health equity.
Vice-president of food and nutrition at GHAI, Ms. Veronica Schoj explained that the taxation of SSBs is one of the fiscal policies used to address diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
She further stated that excessive sugar intake can increase the risk of diabetes, liver and kidney damage, heart disease and some cancers. By imposing taxes on sugary drinks, which will result in increased prices, consumers will be discouraged from consuming them, and healthier choices like water will be encouraged. This will ultimately lower the burden on the healthcare system and governments can use the revenue generated by the tax increase to further improve the health of the population, thus enhancing the tax’s health impact.
Schoj cited evidence from countries with an SSB tax, including South Africa, which showed that well-designed taxes that impact final prices and make these ultra-processed products less affordable have resulted in a decrease in the consumption of sugary drinks and an increase in the consumption of healthier products, resulting in savings in healthcare costs. She emphasized that SSBs contribute to all forms of malnutrition, reducing the consumption of nutritious food.
Furthermore, Schoj alleged that SSB companies not only produce ultra-processed beverages that have a significant impact on health but also generate environmental damage, such as the excessive use of water and plastic contamination. “Policies that reduce the consumption of SSBs,” she said “can protect human and planetary health”.
She emphasised the critical role played by civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media in educating the public and policymakers on the health and environmental harms of sugary drinks and why measures like SSB taxes have been effective solutions globally. She noted that they raise public awareness on why sugary drinks are a leading cause of the NCD epidemic in a country and how taxes can play a key role in tackling this problem. Additionally, CSOs and the media play a key role in exposing the aggressive marketing strategy of companies that make ultra-processed beverage and their interference to avoid or undermine policies that protect public health.