Nigerians consume alcoholic beverages of all kinds largely because the country’s markets are littered with different types of alcoholic beverages. This situation has not been helped by the availability of an assortment of alcoholic beverages in sachets and small bottles in recent years. Experts say this is already fueling a rise in alcohol-related deaths, warning that Nigeria could see an explosion of health complications from alcohol abuse in the coming years.
However, it has been difficult to curb uncontrolled alcohol consumption, especially among young people, due to the government’s inability to design a national policy to guide alcohol production and consumption. ALFRED OLUFEMI reports:
No one would walk through a town center in southern Nigeria without seeing a stall where branded alcoholic beverages in sachets and small bottles are displayed for sale.
These pocket drinks are the most common and preferred by young and low-income drinkers due to their affordability.
A market study carried out by HEALTH PUNCH revealed that some alcoholic beverages in sachets can be purchased for as little as N100 while bottled ones can cost N200.
The indiscriminate sale and consumption of these beverages poses a serious public health problem, experts say.
One could recall that even the national drug and food regulator has sounded the alarm about the danger that these alcoholic beverages represent for human health.
Recall that in 2020, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control alerted the general public to the health risk of reckless consumption of alcoholic beverages in sachets and small volume glass PET bottles. and Poly-Ethylene Terephthalate (PET).
NAFDAC chief executive Christianah Adeyeye had warned of their toxic and psychoactive composition, saying they can be harmful to consumers.
“The uncontrolled access and availability of high strength alcohol in sachets and small volume PET or glass bottles has been highlighted as a contributing factor to substance and alcohol abuse in Nigeria with its negative impact on society,” she said.
Adeyeye also announced that the agency was putting measures in place to meet the challenge.
“To this end, several interventions jointly agreed by key stakeholders are underway and, initially, no new sachet and PET or small volume glass products above 30% ABV will be registered by NAFDAC. ”
“In addition, to reduce availability and combat abuse, effective January 31, 2020, producers of alcohol in sachets and small-volume PET and glass bottles must reduce production by 50% of capacity before January 2020.”
Adeyeye unveiled a long-term plan to eventually ban their production. “We all agreed that we were going to implement the ban in phases,” she said.
However, a tour of most markets in Lagos by our correspondent revealed that those selling these drinks continued to operate as they always have. Efforts to get NAFDAC spokesman Abubakar Jimoh to provide an update on the implementation of the agency’s control measures more than a year after they were announced, however, were unsuccessful as he responded to calls and text messages sent to him.
Experts, however, said that NAFDAC’s aspirations to reduce reckless drinking would have been addressed long ago if Nigeria had a written national alcohol policy.
Some of the experts who spoke with HEALTH PUNCH said that Nigeria does not have a policy document that will determine the quantity and quality of alcoholic beverages for sale and consumption, noting that the formulation and implementation of such a policy is long overdue for a country of over 200 million people.
The Secretary of the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN), John Ichue, said that although some members of his association produce alcohol in sachets with NAFDAC approval, there are many other products. illicit in the Nigerian market.
“Any alcohol you find in our members’ sachets is NAFDAC approved. However, some illicit products not registered by NAFDAC compete with regulated products. We strive to ensure that some of the people working in illicit segment are integrated to form an integral part of the regulated market.”
Ichue, also managing director of a Lagos-based liquor company, noted that until recently the group of distillers had 12 members, but added that it has now grown to 24 with the accommodation of the repentant illicit producers.
“Those who produce without regulation have joined. This means that whatever products they manufacture, they comply with best manufacturing practices,” he said.
Speaking on the development of a national policy, Ichue said that it is a document to ensure that there is regulation and also to ensure that the production, marketing and sales of alcohol are properly controlled.
“This document requires input from different regulatory agencies such as NAFDAC, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission…Stakeholders such as Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Standards Organization of Nigeria and non-governmental organizations, because it is a global document.”
Harmful alcohol consumption contributes to three million deaths each year worldwide, according to a 2018 global report by the World Health Organization.
According to the WHO, at least 62,172 alcohol-related deaths were recorded in 2016 in Nigeria. The WHO report identified cirrhosis of the liver, road accidents and cancer as the main causes of these alcohol-related deaths.
Based on WHO data, Nigeria was ranked seventh among African countries with high alcohol-attributable mortality rate, just behind Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Burundi and Burkina Faso.
The alarming death rate also supports a statement by the Federal Highway Safety Commission, attributing 90% of road accidents in the country to alcoholic beverages and hard drugs.
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