Gross sales of unhealthy meals and drinks in sub-Saharan Africa are skyrocketing. That is resulting in a rise in weight problems associated conditons reminiscent of diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.
These illnesses are projected to change into the main explanation for dying in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, overtaking communicable illnesses like HIV and TB. The financial price of noncommunicable illnesses is immense. They end in vital incapacity, and might be very costly to deal with. In South Africa, the medical price of diabetes was R2.7 billion in 2018.
However noncommunicable illnesses are preventable. The financial and societal impression might be mitigated if governments take decisive motion to cut back the supply of dangerous merchandise reminiscent of unhealthy meals, alcohol and tobacco.
Sugar-sweetened drinks are among the many most dangerous meals merchandise to shoppers. It’s because liquid sugar is particularly poisonous and these drinks don’t have any dietary worth.
One of many key methods to handle the rising public well being impression of sugary drinks is by introducing legal guidelines, insurance policies and laws. These measures may restrict the supply of unhealthy merchandise and make it simpler to encourage individuals to eat wholesome meals. However they have to be applied as a mixed effort.
There are a selection of confirmed interventions to cut back the consumption of sugary drinks. These embody limiting portion sizes, banning them from faculties and checkout isles of supermarkets and taxing sugar-sweetened drinks.
However these measures have been challenged legally and by different means by the businesses that produce and promote sugary drinks.
In 2012, then New York Metropolis mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a regulation limiting the portion sizes of sugar-sweetened drinks offered across the metropolis. The beverage business and retailers challenged this resolution in courtroom and the coverage was rolled again. South Africa’s efforts to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks confronted threats of authorized challenges. These have been based mostly on a variety of technicalities from a scarcity of public participation to difficult the aim of the tax. On this case, the objections solely delayed the tax quite than stopping it.
Even when these regulation fits are unsuccessful, they will have a chilling impact on different actions to forestall noncommunicable illnesses. Authorized challenges to authorities efforts to handle the supply of unhealthy meals and drinks can significantly undermine public well being.
This is the reason international locations should fastidiously think about the authorized feasibility of an intervention earlier than deciding how one can implement it. We developed a approach during which international locations can think about doing this. It includes an evaluation of the potential authorized obstacles to, and in addition to the facilitators of, the proposed intervention.
Our examine regarded on the authorized feasibility of introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in seven sub-Saharan African international locations: Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. We checked out 4 various kinds of sugary drinks taxes that had been launched all over the world and whether or not these could possibly be launched in every of those international locations.
We assessed every nation’s authorized obstacles and facilitators. These included their authorized and taxation regimes. We additionally examined broader regional agreements and the infrastructure wanted to implement such a tax.
We thought-about taxes applied in numerous international locations all over the world and selected to guage the 4 taxes adopted in Mexico, Colombia, the UK and South Africa beneath this examine. The tax launched in Mexico added a hard and fast quantity on every litre of sentimental drink. The taxes in South Africa and the UK hyperlink the quantity of tax payable to the sugar content material of a drink. And Colombia determined to take away a price added tax exemption from sugar-sweetened drinks. Apart from Colombia’s method, most of those taxes are launched as an excise tax.
Our analysis confirmed that every one seven sub-Saharan African international locations had current excise tax laws. And 5 international locations already taxed sugar-sweetened drinks. Nonetheless, these current taxes labored to generate income for governments quite than enhance public well being because the taxes didn’t differentiate between sugary and non-sugary drinks. For instance, Rwanda had a tax of 39% on carbonated drinks however sugary drinks remained an inexpensive beverage choice.
As well as, international locations have an obligation to introduce measures to guard the well being of their residents. These obligations are set out in treaties just like the African Constitution on Human and Peoples’ Rights and home constitutions which include rights to nutritious meals or well being.
Our analysis additionally confirmed that there have been current legal guidelines that could possibly be used as a basis to undertake a sugar-sweetened beverage tax to enhance public well being. For instance, Uganda had a devoted HIV fund which was funded solely by a 2% levy on drinks (together with comfortable drinks and bottled water). Each Tanzania and Kenya had an agricultural levy on sugar, the proceeds of which have been used to assist sugar farmers.
The existence of supportive authorized frameworks reminiscent of human rights may be used to defend towards potential challenges to a public well being measure like this.
The introduction of taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks in Mexico and South Africa resulted within the lowered consumption of sugar and sugary drinks consumption inside a yr or two after the implementation of the tax. These reductions can result in vital well being advantages, notably in individuals who eat a whole lot of sugary drinks. As well as, these taxes are a very good intervention as a result of they might help governments generate extra tax revenues.
Our analysis exhibits that sugar-sweetened beverage taxation within the seven international locations is legally possible. Current legal guidelines can present a robust start line for the introduction of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. As well as, the adoption of such a tax is a approach for governments to satisfy their human rights obligations with out having to fret about authorized challenges undermining the intervention.
Authorized feasibility and the well being impression of those interventions are just one half within the advanced political economic system of adopting noncommunicable illness prevention interventions. Analysis has proven that the political atmosphere and business pushback towards measures like sugar taxation are additionally essential hurdles that must be overcome.
Governments should take pressing motion to forestall noncommunicable illnesses from changing into an uncontrollable epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Sugar-sweetened beverage taxation gives a possible answer.