18 February 2021
Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA), Centre for Communication Impact (CCI) and other partners are launching a Mass Media Campaign on the 18th of February 2021 to organise support and raise the public’s awareness about the harms of excessive consumption of unhealthy foods and the most effective policy-related solutions to the problem.
The partnership, whose mission is to improve the health of an increasingly obese South Africa and to empower the nation to make healthy food and lifestyle choices to prevent Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), is calling on the Minister of Finance, Honourable Tito Mboweni, ahead of his budget speech on the 24th of February 2021 to raise the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) from the current 11% on sugary beverages to 20%.
An estimated 4.5 million South Africans will have Type 2 diabetes by 2030. The burden of Type 2 diabetes is projected to cost the South African public healthcare system over R35.1Billion by 2030. At least 27% of children under 5 years old experience stunting (impaired growth and development), which contributes to diet related Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Excessive consumption of sugary beverages has been linked to obesity and diseases such as diabetes and hypertension which are the leading causes of early mortality in South Africa. These diseases are rapidly increasing and impacting lower income households and rural communities and already placing a huge burden on the South African Government and society.
A Health Promotion Levy (HPL) of 20% in the long-term can reduce sugar consumption, saving lives from Non-Communicable Diseases but also COVID-19 as many scientists don’t expect the pandemic to end any time soon, despite the availability of the vaccine.
“South Africa’s constitution is based on fundamental principles amongst them, to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person, recognise the injustices of our past and lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law. If National Treasury doubled the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) now, it could bring an extra R2 billion in government coffers to help fund the fight against COVID-19 in the short term and towards social and economic programs to advance the lives of ordinary citizens”says Lawrence Mbalati, Programme Manager at HEALA.
According to HEALA, CCI and their partners, over the years consumers have increasingly purchased ultra- processed foods and beverages, a trend in both urban and rural areas, therefore Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) taxes are an effective public health strategy to reduce the burden of health conditions linked to over consumption of sugar. Up to 76% of South Africans support government’s efforts to cut down on excessive sugar consumption now more than ever and it’s time to take bold steps to respond to COVID-19 and diet-related NCDs.
“Policymakers now have the opportunity to increase the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) to 20% to raise additional revenue in the short-term. In the long-term, we know that a Health Promotion Levy (HPL) of 20% will reduce the amount of sugar people consume, decreasing their chance of developing conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure that also put people at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19” adds Mbalati.
South Africa introduced a Health Promotion Levy (HPL) on sugary beverages in 2018 to help curb the country’s sugar consumption. Within its first two years, the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) generated R5.4 Billion for Government. The government currently projects a R300 billion shortfall in revenue in this year’s budget due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has lost millions on sin tax collections due to the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales during the 2020 nationwide lockdown. An increase on the sugar tax from its current 11% to 20% is needed in order to improve health outcomes and support increased revenue collection. A further increase in sugary beverages will not only result in a reduction in Non-Communicable Diseases like diabetes, it will also help support the country’s growing tax collection shortfall.
“HEALA, CCI and its partners are therefore calling on the National Treasury to act now. Raising the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) to 20% is absolutely critical to not only funding the COVID-19 fight but also to saving lives now and in the future”, concludes Mbalati.
To read more about HEALA and the campaign, visit the website at: https://heala.org/