Advocacy groups intensify efforts to review laws on SSB

The Advocating for Health (A4H) Project, a coalition of public health experts, has embarked on consultative process on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) tax implementation in Ghana.

It was on the theme: ‘Taxes Build Nations: Evidence-informed Health Taxes Save Lives.’

It was aimed at bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the science behind food-related health tax policies and the current state of implementation of Ghana’s Excise Duty Amendment Act 2023 (Act 1093/1108).

It was also to review international and the local evidence on the effectiveness of SSB taxes in reducing sugar consumption and improving public health, discuss challenges, opportunities, and strategies for the effective implementation of the policy in Ghana.

The Coalition comprised of University of Ghana Public Health School, Ghana Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, Ghana Public Health Association, Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and civil society organisations.

Professor Kingsley K. Pereko, President of the Ghana Academy
of Nutrition and Dietetics, and facilitator of the workshop in an interview with the Ghana News Agency said processes for the review were initiated to look at the current state of implementing the policy in Ghana, logistical, technical, ethical, and strategic considerations.

He said the consumption of SSB has soared over the few decades, contributing significantly to the obesity epidemic, and linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as type two diabetes, heart diseases and dental problems.

Prof Pereko said taxing these beverages was also seen to reduce consumption, especially among high-risk groups such as children and low-income individuals.

He said the challenges persist, the evidence suggest that thoughtfully designed and implemented taxations can drive positive change in consumer behaviour, improve public health outcome and provides a sustainable source of revenue for health initiatives.

Dr Alex Kombat, Assistant Commissioner of the Ghana Revenue Authority who spoke on the SSB tax said i
t was the responsibility of Government to protect its citizenry against any health risks associated with consumption of harmful products.

‘One means of doing this is through imposition of health taxes on products that have negative public health impact, especially alcoholic beverages and SSBs,’ he said.

He stated that the implementation of the SSB tax as amended and backed by Excise Duty Amendment Act 2023 (Act 1108), started on April 15, 2023, and mentioned some of the challenges as low nationwide sensitization and food and beverages producers showing resistance to the tax.

Dr Kombat said the implementation of the SSB tax required total collaboration of all relevant stakeholders to ensure its effectiveness.

Mrs Irene Sam, a participant from the National Council of Parent Teachers Association told the GNA that; ‘We are really at the epidemic situation of too much consumption of SSB products.’

She said education on nutrition was key to solving SSB and called on the PTAs to ensure collaboration so that the
schools can have a policy.

Mr Abayomi Sarumi, Senior Programme Manager of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa from Nigeria, also told the GNA instituting taxes to control consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was an effective way to reduce the consumption of harmful, unhealth and non-nutrition drinks and other foods.

‘It’s also important to draw attention of the public to the dangers but more importantly to garner their support for government’s efforts to combat diseases through this means,’ he said.

Source: Ghana News Agency