The Advocating for Health (A4H) Coalition, comprising academics, civil society organizations, public health and nutrition professionals, is commending President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, for assenting the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2022.
This bill, among others, seeks to tax sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and rake in an estimated 400 million cedis annually.
While the effects of the SSB tax are yet to be fully understood and accepted by most Ghanaians, the tax is highly welcomed by the A4H Coalition and the wider non-communicable disease (NCD) community because it is not only a win for government revenue but also a major win for public health.
Taxes on SSBs, according to the World Health Organization, are an effective and evidence-informed intervention for the prevention and control of NCDs, which in recent times have become the leading cause of death globally, accounting for over 41 million deaths annually.
Ghana will not be the first country to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. As of May 2022, over 85 countries had introduced some type of tax on these beverages. Evidence from all the countries that have implemented some kind of tax on SSBs shows a reduction in the purchase and sales of SSBs, reducing the availability, accessibility, and affordability of the products, and consequently, a reduction in their consumption, while having the added benefit of generating revenue for the government.
Significant evidence from these countries also shows that the taxation of SSBs has led to most industries reformulating their products by reducing the sugar content while raising public awareness about the harms of SSBs. Overall, high tax rates on SSBs are proven to have a positive impact on health behaviours and outcomes.
While commending the president for signing the bill, which is in alignment with global NCD prevention recommendations, the coalition appeals to the government of Ghana to ring-fence the revenue that will be accrued to fund health-related activities or promote other health policies.
A local survey conducted among over 7,800 Ghanaians showed that Ghanaians are ready to support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages only if the money will be used to support public health interventions. Therefore, the revenue generated should be ring-fenced to support much-needed preventative strategies towards obesity and diet-related NCDs in Ghana.
The coalition also implores the government to clearly define what the taxable SSB products will be and what the tax base (based on sugar content or volume) will also be.
In as much as the excise duty amendment tax aims to generate revenue for the government for state financing, this kind of tax is also known as a health tax, which saves lives. Therefore, the packaging of the government’s mission on the taxation of SSBs should have the improvement of Ghanaians’ health as the ultimate goal.