The National Action and Sugar Reduction Coalition (NASR) and some patients undergoing diabetes treatments have urged the federal government, to come to their aid by subsidizing the treatment and management of the various types of diabetes in the country.
They made the call yesterday in Abuja during a pro-health tax policy campaign on sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB), held at the Federal ministries of Finance, Health and federal secretarial complex, to raise awareness on the heightened risk of type 2 diabetes from SSB consumption.
A representative of the NASR, Mr Edozie Chukwuma, said the campaign aims at sensitizing the general public, policy makers and concerned government authorities on the dangers associated with the consumption of SSB.
He reiterated the need for the current administration led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to increase the SSB tax as part of an effort to discourage patronage of sweetened products and the negative effects on the nation’s health and economic sectors.
“We are calling on the government to enact laws to put together a tax that prohibits or that would in the end, reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, and how will this tax work? It simply works by increasing the affordability of sugary drinks, thereby providing revenue that could be used to support healthcare, especially with regards to non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden in the country.
“It is an epidemic and it needs to be addressed. Out of pocket payments are at an all time high, with over 75% of Nigerians paying from your pockets for treatment of different ailments,” he said.
Also speaking, a person with diabetes, Dr. Peter Agada, urged Nigerians to stay off carbonated drinks, saying that the cost for purchasing those products is cheap but the cost of treating diabetes is more and expensive.
He urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, subsidize the cost of diabetes management, including medications and monitoring devices, to reduce preventable deaths.
“If there is anything the government can do, things like making the health insurance scheme easily available to people that are non-government like myself. I don’t work in the public sector. But I don’t have an NHIS for example. I know that there are several people now providing that service, but it is not easily available to the majority of people,” Agada said.
Speaking during the rally, the Director/Head, Public Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health, expressed commitment to increase the tax on SSBs from the current 10 percent to 20 percent.
She said that this aims to promote healthy beverage choices, reduce the intake of processed sugars, soft drinks and contribute to a healthier future for citizens and generations to come.
“Taxation on SSBs has been successfully implemented in countries like Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Portugal and so many others to reduce the consumption of sugar sweetened drinks.
“The introduction and sustenance of the tax in Nigeria will also reduce excess consumption of SSBS and thus reduce the burden of NCDs. We are committed to attain the global best practice of at least 20% of the final retail price on all SSBS as the current N10 per liter price fails to achieve that,” she said.