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Tobacco, Alcohol, diets high in sugar-sweetened beverages account for 17,000 deaths in Ghana yearly

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation has revealed that the use of tobacco, alcohol and diets high in sugar-sweetened beverages account for over 17,000 deaths in Ghana yearly.

According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages are all harmful to the human health.

In a health taxes revenue forecast and recommendations for Ghanaian policymakers release sighted by, it said "Increasing taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages by implementing specific excise taxes can generate GHc3.5 billion in additional excise tax revenue in 2023.

The release added that increasing tobacco taxes by introducing a specific excise tax of GHc6 on cigarettes in Ghana will satisfy the ECOWAS directive of a specific minimum excise tax of at least US$0.40 per pack.

Reading a statement on behalf of the WHO Representative to Ghana and WHO Country office, Francis Kasolo, Technical Officers in charge of Quality and Safety, Dr. Angela Ackon congratulated the Government of Ghana for its decision to raise health taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages in the new Excise Duty Act, signed by President Akufo -Addo on 14 April, 2023.

She added that Ghana ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, but progress over the years have been slow.

"Ghana, like many other countries, faces a substantial burden from NCDs. According to recent data, NCDs account for approximately 43% of all deaths in our country. Cardiovascular diseases, in particular, are responsible for a significant proportion of these deaths. Additionally, the prevalence of risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol remains alarmingly high"

"As a priority country, the Norway NCD Flagship initiative supports the implementation of NCD-focused projects in Ghana including those focused on (1) health taxes, (2) health policy analysis on NCDs and taxes, and (3) bringing NCD treatment and care services to those in need. This work builds on that of the Heads of State and Government Group, comprised of the WHO, Ghana, and Norway, aimed at accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for NCDs. Leveraging each of these channels, the WHO and partners aim to support Ghana in fulfilling its commitments under the NCD Global Compact and offering technical assistance, where needed"

She further mentioned that health taxes are among the most effective policies Member States can take to prevent NCDs.

She stressed that health taxes can be a win-win-win strategy: a win for public health (and averted health-care costs), a win for government revenue, and a win for health equity.

She revealed that in line with wHO guidleines, the tax bill introduced a mixed system with a sizable specific component.

"WHO estimates that the cigarette tax increase alone will avert more than 25 thousand deaths among Ghana's current cohort of adults and youth and more than double the government revenue from cigarette excise taxes"

The statement disclosed that the tax increase on tobacco is also an important accomplishment because it sets a new benchmark for other countries in the region.

She hinted that the new excise duty act includes other life-saving provisions.

"It introduced the tax on e-cigarette liquids at levels comparable to many high-income countries and doubled the tax rate for spirits and wines. Finally, it increased the tax rate on sugar-sweetened beverages, and fruit juices"

"The recent amendment to Ghana's health tax policy is therefore truly remarkable achievement. It will improve health outcomes, boost revenues for public programs towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and support the achievement of health-related Sustainable Development Goals"

She stressed that to fully unlock the potential benefits of these taxes, Ghana must overcome challenges that extend beyond the mere enactment of new increases.

"Health taxes must be implemented as part of a comprehensive package of interventions aimed at tackling obesity and diet-related NCDs, based on global best practices and recommendations; and also as part of a broad set of fiscal policies embedded within a comprehensive , whole -of- government approach to promoting public health and well-being"

She noted that WHO remains committed in assisting the Government to promote healthy lifestyles and support programmes to tackle the NCD menace.

Taking his turn, Deputy Minister of Health, Mahama Asei Seini said "the concept of health tax is a powerfully tool for revenue generation that has been successfully implemented in many countries"

He explained that health taxes involve levying charges on products that are deemed harmful to health such as tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.

He hinted that these taxes generate revenue and discourage the consumption of these harmful products thereby reducing the incidence of NCDs.

"For us in the health sector, we are happy that the health taxes will promote healthier choices"

"Parliament of Ghana passed the Excise Duty Amendment Act 2023 (Act 1093) which increase ld the excise duty charged on specific goods such as cigarettes, tobacco products, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages produced locally and imported.

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith



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