CSOs calls on Parliament to pass the Excise Tax Bill

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Civil society actors led by Ghana NCD Alliance and the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD-Ghana) have urged Parliament to pass the Bill on Excise Taxes as a fulfilment of its responsibility to protect Ghanaians.

They said the passage of the Bill would go a long way to protect the citizenry from excessive exposure to sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs), which has been established as a key predictor of obesity and other Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

The civil society organisations (CSOs) gave the advice in a joint statement signed and copied to the Ghana News Agency as they joined the globe to commemorate the World Obesity Day on the theme: “Changing Perspectives: Let’s Talk about Obesity,” which fell on Saturday, February 4, 2023.

The statement was signed by Mr Labram Musah, the National Coordinator – Ghana NCD Alliance and the Executive Director of Programmes – VALD-Ghana and copied to the Ghana News Agency.

It said the theme was timely and thoughtful, given the many misconceptions surrounding the causes of obesity and the reflex response of shifting the blame on the victim’s choices and willpower while policymakers ignore how unhealthy food environment increases the prevalence, especially among children and young people.

The statement said the World Health Organization (WHO) defined obesity as excessive fat accumulation that presents a health risk; a body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, while a BMI over 30 is obese.

“As of 2017, the global death rates associated with obesity stood at four million per year. Sadly, the rates keep increasing largely due to the indifference of countries to take up responsibility and act (WHO, 2022).

“In 2015, a joint survey by the Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana Health Service and ICF International found Ghana’s obesity rate at 15.3 per cent while overweight stood at 24.8 per cent. Today, seven out of 10 Ghanaian adults and 4.5 out of 11 children are obese (Global Obesity Observatory 2023).”

The statement said the resulting impact was enormous; obesity leads to comorbidities with other NCDs such as cancer, mental illness, hypertension, bone diseases and cardiovascular disease.

“Economically, Lartey et. al 2020, found that the average healthcare cost per admission for adults of healthy weight is $35, whereas for adults with overweight, it is $78, and for adults with obesity, $132,” it stated.

The study further estimated that 60 per cent of the average total costs per person expended is borne by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

The statement said the result of the study meant that the government was paying huge sums of money for the treatment and care of obesity and its related diseases, with little or no efforts aimed at preventing these diseases.

“The commemoration of this year’s World Obesity Day is timely as Ghana’s Parliament is considering the passage of the Excise Tax Bill, which when passed, will go a long way to reduce the availability and affordability of sugar-sweetened beverages thereby, reducing consumption,” it stated.

The CSOs recommended that government must develop policies to regulate what was sold in and around all basic and secondary schools in Ghana; develop policies on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) to regulate the sale, marketing and advertisement on television, radio, and social media.

That, government should ban SSBs-sponsored events in schools and that government and school owners must revive the physical activity periods popularly called ‘PE’ in the school curriculum to keep the children active.

“As the next generation of adults, parents, workers, and decision-makers, we say, young Ghanaians are being let down by systemic factors like aggressive food marketing that makes it difficult to lead healthy lives.

“Obesity is a very complex condition and solving is not as simple as telling people to be more active and eat better. This year, we are changing the perspective; we will no longer blame individuals and claim the problem is simply a lack of willpower and a matter of choice.

“The government must take full responsibility for regulating Ghana’s food environments and protecting the right to life of its young people; pass the SSBs tax now!” the statement said.

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