Raising taxes is not the solution to control sugar consumption: Shitta-Bay

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A leading economic analyst, Teslim Shitta-Bay, criticized the federal government for saying its proposed plan to impose a 20 percent additional ad valorem tax on carbonated soft drinks was to control the country’s sugar consumption.

About two weeks ago, the Nigerian Manufacturers Association (MAN) soft drink group alleged that the government was planning to generate more funds from the industry group.

A few days ago, an organization known as National Sugar Reduction Action held a peaceful demonstration in Abuja urging the government to increase taxes on sugary drinks and invest the revenue in public health.

But Shitta-Bay noted that the tax increase cannot be used to solve the health problems associated with sugar consumption, stressing that similar actions taken by the government in the past have left the country’s health sector in a mess.

According to him, controlling sugar consumption is essential but raising taxes is not the solution.

He stated that the best way to control sugar consumption is to set and enforce rules on the amount of sugar used in carbonated beverages.

In addition, a social awareness program should be made that explains the consequences of excessive sugar consumption with messages placed on soft drink bottles, such as the country’s Chief Medical Officer’s warning on a cigarette pack, he said.

Mr. Shitta-Bay, drawing a similar parallel with the case of the tobacco sector, stated that the sector also suffered a similar fate.

It revealed that the regulatory position was such that tobacco advertising was prohibited. Meanwhile, the effects of that were that smokers migrated to other substances and unregulated drugs, including tramadol and miscellaneous substances.

“Yes, the health issue may be related to economic development, but in this case there is no justification for using health to rationalize simply because the soft drink sector has not violated regulations,” he said.

Also commenting, MAN’s industry group accused the federal government of using emotional blackmail to justify its proposed tax.

In a statement made available to trade publicationthe group said it was shocked that the government was insulting a dog in order to hang it.

He claimed that it was wrong for the federal government to allegedly sponsor a faceless group to stage a protest in his support, claiming that sugar was the cause of strokes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

“The health of citizens is an important responsibility of all governments, and any action to protect the health of citizens is desirable and must be supported. But the false attribution of sugar-related foods to a single cause or product is incorrect,” the group stated.

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