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Cancer: Soft drinks contained dangerous chemicals, NMA warns Nigerians

The President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Prof. Innocent Ujah, says cancer is a great burden to the Nigerian population, especially medical practitioners, because the country faces challenges of prevention, treatment and care for it.

Ujah said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the third webinar on Pro-Health Tax in Nigeria with the theme: “Addressing the Increasing Prevalence of NCDs in Nigeria through Pro-Health Taxes’’.

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The forum which was organized in collaboration with Nigeria Health Watch (NHW), was supported by the National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR), the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Cancer Society.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, while presenting the breakdown of the 2022 budget, had announced an excise tax of N10 per liter on all non-alcoholic, carbonated and sweetened beverages.

Ahmed said that the new tax was introduced to raise excise duties and revenues for health-related and other critical expenditures in line with the 2022 budget priorities.

The Minister noted that the primary aim of the tax was to discourage excessive consumption of sugar in beverages, which contributed to obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

The NMA President also stressed that Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) had less nutritional value, so a tax on SSBs should be seen as one component of a comprehensive approach to tackling unhealthy diets.

A public health expert, Prof. Akin Osibogun, stated that the chronic nature of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) constituted a long-term economic burden that could be minimized through lower investment in preventive interventions.

Osibogun, a former Chief Medical Director of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), noted that 40 per cent of the total number of deaths, are attributable to NCDs in East Africa due to poor access to healthcare.

According to him, ‘’access to care has to do with funds, out of pocket payment is not the best way to fund NCDs because of the burden on families.’’

The Professor stressed that good health is an investment to achieve economic growth, noting that Pro-Health taxes, if properly managed, could be used to improve access to prevention and cure, as well as rehabilitate health services in the country.

The National President of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria (DAN), Dr. Mohammed Alkali, said that human resources and capacity building should be in place for easy detection of NCDs in the country.

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‘’I suggest 50 per cent of the funds that will be generated from the pro-health taxes in Nigeria should be used for the fight against NCDs and local drugs production,’’ he added.

Meanwhile, the President and Founder of Breast Without Spot (BWS) and a foremost oncologist at UNTH, Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, noted that soft drinks contained dangerous chemicals, though people found them to be delicious.

Dr. Olumide Okunola, a Senior Health Specialist of the Health, Nutrition & Population, World Bank Group, noted that there is an increasing prevalence of NCD in the country.

Okunola said that the primary reason for introducing the sugar tax by the Nigerian Government was to reduce the consumption of SSBs and to generate funds to improve the health situation of the citizens.

Also Speaking at the event, the Managing Director of NHW, Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu, stressed that the purpose of the three Webinar Series on Nigeria Pro-Health Taxes was to push forward the discussion and present the benefits of the sugar tax to Nigerians.

Ihekweazu said that Nigeria has a rising incidence of NCDs, with about 11 million Nigerians living with diabetes.

“So, how do we advocate for the reduction in NCDs in Nigeria? This is what this webinar series is all about.

“We have severe funding gaps in Nigeria’s healthcare system, we hope to close these care gaps through the Pro-Health Taxes introduced by the Nigerian government,” she stressed. (NAN)

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