Tuesday, February 27, 2024

National Coalition Protests Suspension Of SSB Tax, Calls For Cut In Insulin Tariffs

Sugar sweetened beverages. SSB
Sugar sweetened beverages.

In a decisive move against recent policy changes, the National Action on Sugar Reduction Coalition (NASR) has vehemently criticised the suspension of the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax and is now demanding a reduction in insulin tariffs.

The coalition claims that these decisions have severe repercussions for public health and pose a direct threat to individuals with diabetes.

Addressing stakeholders at a meeting in Abuja on Monday, the NASR Coalition, which has been advocating for health-focused policies, including the N10 per litre excise tax in the 2021 Finance Act, urged the government to reinstate the SSB tax and lower insulin tariffs.

President of the Nigeria Cancer Society (NCS) and co-chairman of the NASR Coalition, Dr. Adamu Umar emphasised the necessity of these measures for improving the health of Nigerians and reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.

Umar stated, “SSB consumption is a modifiable risk factor for non-communicable diseases, including diabetes mellitus, cancers, and heart diseases. It is, therefore, pertinent to have proactive measures in place to curtail the harmful effects of these products”.

Expressing concern about the temporary suspension of the SSB tax, the coalition called for increased taxation on sugary beverages, aligning with global best practices. Additionally, they urged the government to provide subsidies for insulin and remove tariffs, ensuring a better quality of life for Nigerians.

“We demand that taxes on insulin be removed, and revenue from sugary drinks taxes can be used to subsidise insulin treatments for patients,” said Umar, highlighting the potential benefits of pro-health taxes like the SSB tax in promoting a healthier population.

National secretary of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Mr. Bernard Enyia echoed these sentiments, expressing disappointment over the suspension of the SSB tax. He emphasised the urgent need to reinstate the deduction in sugar taxes for the sake of those already living with diabetes.

A member of the coalition and executive director of Bundies Care Support Initiative, Ms. Funmi Adefila-Osiegbu stressed the importance of reducing the burden on Nigerians in accessing healthcare. She advocated for the restoration of the SSB tax to contribute to health financing, directing generated revenue from sweetened beverage taxes to healthcare.

Health experts and individuals affected by diabetes joined the coalition in expressing their outrage over the policy changes. Dr. Sarah Thompson emphasised that obesity and related diseases are major public health concerns requiring immediate attention. Suspending the SSB tax, according to her, sends the wrong message and undermines efforts to combat these health issues.

A diabetes patient and coalition member, highlighted the life-saving nature of insulin for those with diabetes. He emphasised the need for affordable insulin and called on policymakers to prioritise public health over short-term economic considerations.

The coalition’s stance reflects a growing sentiment among health experts and affected individuals who believe that reinstating the SSB tax and reducing insulin tariffs are critical steps in tackling the rising rates of obesity and associated health complications in Nigeria.

Racheal Abujah
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