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Expert Call for 100% Increase in Sugar Beverage Tax

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CEM REPORTR, HEALTH | In Nigeria, an astounding 11.2 million individuals are currently contending with diabetes, with a vast majority of 90 per cent being classified as type 2. On a global scale, the recorded number of people living with diabetes stands at a staggering 537 million and is projected to increase to 737 million by the year 2040 if decisive actions are not taken.

To this effect, experts have called for a 100 per cent increase in Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) tax as a means to militate the growth of diabetes.

Experts opine that the sugar tax increase from ₦10 per litre to ₦20 per litre will weaken the consumption of sugar and save the nation about $4.5 billion annually.

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Data by the Diabetes Association of Nigeria disclosed that Nigerian diabetic patients spend on average around ₦300,000 annually on diabetic medications and diabetes, indirectly costing Nigeria about $4.5 billion annually.

According to Dr. Alkali Mohammed the president of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Nigeria bears the highest burden of diabetes in Africa, and the underreporting of cases imply that the actual number of individuals living with the disease may be higher.

Dr. Mohammed underscored the severity of the diabetes situation, pointing out that the disease can impact any part of the body, he further highlighted the multifaceted impact of diabetes on families, from financial strain to reduced productivity.

“In Nigeria, most of the payment we make for healthcare is out of pocket payment, so if you add the total costs of all the complications that affect any part of the body, together with the cost of living, it is a huge cost.

“The second component is the fact that people become less productive when they lose their eyesight or when they are sick, they don’t go to work.

“You can see that this sickness has a multi-factorial component on the family at large, and the amount you envisage you will spend on the sickness could be more than that.”

“We want the proper implementation of policy, proper usage of the tax deduction from SSB products for the betterment of the lives of diabetic patients.”

Dr Mohammed prescribed the increase in SSBs as a measure to tackle the growing menace, adding that the measure will also foster a healthier culture amongst Nigeria, while also generating additional revenue for the government.

However, Dr Mohammed raised concerns about the utilization of the existing 10 per cent tax on SSBs, highlighting the lack of clarity from the government on its allocation.

He appealed for transparency, urging the government to allocate at least 60 per cent of this tax revenue to public enlightenment, prevention efforts, and subsidizing drugs, especially for diabetes patients.

In 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced a Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) tax embedded in the Finance Act of 2021, which levies a ₦10 tax on each litre of all non-alcoholic and sugar-sweetened carbonated drinks.

[READ ALSO] Nigerian High Court Nullifies Section of Tax Laws

The move the federal government said is part of efforts to discourage excessive consumption of sugar, which contributes to the burden of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, and diabetes, among others.

However, 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.

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