A coalition of frontline organisations, working to prevent communicable diseases and controlling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria, has called on the government to tax sugary drinks to help curb obesity among Nigerians.
The groups, in a press briefing to mark the 2021 World Obesity Day, revealed that obesity is a disease that now affects 35% of all Nigerians from all walks of life and a risk factor for several NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, stroke, and various cancer forms.
The groups, led by the African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD), called on FG to Tax Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Introducing a specific excise duty of 20% on SSBs such as soda and energy drinks.
“The government should use this tax to fund the prevention and treatment of NCDs in Nigeria.
“We cannot afford to see the detrimental health and economic effects of easy access to sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods go unchallenged.
“Recent studies reveal that obesity increases the mortality risk of COVID-19 by nearly 50%, making it a significant mortality risk factor.”
The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), commonly known as soft drinks, is strongly associated with obesity in Nigeria.
Nigeria ranks the 4th highest soft drink consuming country globally, with over 40 million litres sold yearly.
These soft drinks contain damaging sugar levels and put their consumers, mostly poor people, at grave risk.
Children are often served soft drinks with their meals and snacks, putting them at risk of childhood obesity.
About 4 million Nigerians are suffering from diabetes linked to excess sugar consumption.
While many poor Nigerians can afford to buy soda, they cannot afford to treat diabetes, cancer, stroke and other NCDs.
They added: “On this World Obesity Day, we urge all Nigerians to be aware of the risks of sugar-sweetened beverages and ensure they hold themselves accountable to reduce their intake and embrace healthy habits including physical exercise, drinking water, and sleeping properly.”
World Obesity Day is a global day celebrated every 4th of March to create awareness about obesity, underscoring the importance of this urgent health issue that affects people worldwide.