Why should the Ghanaian youth be interested in the implementation of the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax?

Young people have become the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), putting them at risk of developing certain diseases that SSBs have been implicated in. Typically known as “adult diseases”, SSB consumption has led to increased cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and stroke. Among children, obesity and dental caries are highly prevalent as a result of excess intake of SSBs.[1]

Obesity is a major public health concern in many parts of the world. In Ghana, nearly 43% of the adult population is either overweight or obese.[2] Aside obesity, other NCDs have been on the rise across the country, in recent times.[3] Major causes of death in Ghana are now shifting to chronic NCDs over the last few decades. Hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cancer have recently made it to the country’s top 10 causes of death.[4] Urbanization, changing lifestyles, poor diet choices, and weak health systems are associated with chronic diseases, morbidity and mortality.[5] Studies suggest that the consumption of SSBs has increased in the country at the same time elsewhere, consumption of SSBs is correlated with increases in obesity and other related NCDs.[6] Worryingly, adolescents are one of the major consumers of carbonated soft drinks in the country.[7]

Evidence has emerged linking SSB consumption to several health implications among adolescents and the youth.[8] The availability of soft drinks and sugar-added products on school grounds and communities also attribute to increased consumption of these food products.[9] In Ghana, childhood cancers have been on the increase[10] and findings on mortalities in adolescents showed NCDs contribute 41% of the deaths among adolescents and youth.[11] Aside from health implications, SSB consumption also has an impact on education. Studies show that a lower intake of SSBs[12] and higher-energy foods especially fast foods[13] is associated with higher academic performance and vice versa. Another study also shows that high SSB consumption may adversely affect cognitive function[14] and consequently, academic performance in Ghanaian children and adolescents. SSB consumption can also have an effect on the economy of the country. NCDs are a major cause of death globally and caused a third of all death in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 and up to 28% in 2010.[15] Imagine Ghana losing its population to NCDs, how can the country’s economy grow? In 2010, the economic cost for NCDs in Africa including medical, non-medical and productivity costs was estimated at US$6 billion.[16] Currently in Ghana, the actual economic and healthcare costs of obesity are unknown, it is however very high and estimated to be in billions of Ghana cedis (millions of USD).[17] The costs continue to escalate as dietary risk factors for NCDs also increase with increased consumption of SSBs and other unhealthy diets.[18]

From the foregoing, the Ghanaian youth must therefore support SSB taxes. We outline below the reasons why we are in support of the implementation of the SSB tax.

  • Firstly, the SSB tax will help minimize diet-related health challenges and ultimately improve health. A tax on SSBs will increase product prices and reduce demand resulting in fewer purchases and less consumption. This will help reduce the consumption and help improve health.
  • Secondly, SSB consumption is often higher among the economically vulnerable groups, who may not have access to healthy food options. Taxing SSBs can help promote healthy eating by reducing the financial burden of unhealthy beverage consumption and encouraging healthier lifestyle choices.
  • Third, the revenue generated from SSB taxes can be used to fund public health programs and services, including those that benefit young people. Revenue generated could also be used in organizing health education for the youth to promote healthy food choices.[19] Several countries, including South Africa, Mexico, France, and UK, have successfully implemented sugar-sweetened beverage taxes with evaluation data showing impact on consumers knowledge on the harms of SSB, their preferences and purchase of SSB.[20]
  • Fourth, by supporting the tax, the youth can help the country align with worldwide best practices and position the country as a leader in public health policy. If the Ghanaian youth fail to support the SSB tax, there will be negative health consequences, higher healthcare expenses, and missed chances to enhance public health. The youth must be interested in their health, and the health of Ghana.
Written by Selina M. Tobil and Amos Laar


[1]  Fejerskov O, Nyvad B, Kidd E. Dental Caries: The Disease and its Clinical Management. 3rd ed. John Wiley & Sons; 2015.

[2] Ofori-Asenso R, Agyeman AA, Laar A, Boateng D. Overweight and obesity epidemic in Ghana-a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2016 Dec 9;16(1):1239. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3901-4. PMID: 27938360; PMCID: PMC5148846.

[3] Boutayeb A. The double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases in developing countries. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2006;100 (3):191–199.

[4] Agyei-Mensah S, de-Graft Aikins A. Epidemiological transition and the double burden of disease in Accra, Ghana. J Urban Health. 2010;87(5):879–897. doi: 10.1007/s11524-010-9492-y

[5] WHO, author. A vital investment. Geneva: WHO; 2005. Preventing Chronic Diseas

[6] Malik VS, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Oct;98(4):1084-102. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.058362.

[7]  Vuvor F and Harrison O (2017) Knowledge, practice and perception of taking soft drinks with food and the metabolic effects on high school students in Ghana. Endocrinol Metab 1(1): 103

[8] Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després J-P, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(11):2477–2483. doi: 10.2337/dc10-1079.

[9] Amos PM, Intiful FD, Boateng L. Factors that were found to influence Ghanaian adolescents’ eating habits. SAGE Open. 2012; 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244012468140

[10] Badasu D. Epidemiological transition, the burden of non-communicable diseases and tertiary health policy for child health in Ghana: lessons from a study on children in a Ghanaian Teaching Hospital; Paper submitted to the 2007 UAPS conference.2007.

[11] Ohene SA, Tettey Y, Kumoji R. Cause of death among Ghanaian adolescents in Accra using autopsy data. BMC Research Notes. 2011; 4:353. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-353.

[12] Burrows T., Goldman S., Pursey K., Lim R. Is There an Association between Dietary Intake and Academic Achievement: A Systematic Review. J. Hum. Nutr Diet. 2017; 30:117–140.

[13] Noll M., de Mendonca C.R., de Souza Rosa L.P., Silveira E.A. Determinants of Eating Patterns and Nutrient Intake among Adolescent Athletes: A Systematic Review. Nutr. J. 2017; 16:46. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0267-0.

[14] Agrawal, R. and F. Gomez-Pinilla (2012). “‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signaling and cognition.” The Journal of Physiology590: 2485-2499.

[15] The World Bank. Cause of death, by non-communicable diseases (% of total) – Sub-Saharan Africa. 2016.

[16] Bloom DE, Cafiero ET, Jané-Llopis E, et al. The global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases. Geneva: World Economic Forum; 2011

[17] Lartey ST, de Graaff B, Magnussen CG, et al. Health service utilization and direct healthcare costs associated with obesity in older adult population in Ghana. Health Policy and Planning 2020; 35(2): 199-209.

[18] Steyn NP, Mchiza ZJ. Obesity and the nutrition transition in Sub‐Saharan Africa. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014; 1311:88–101.

[19] Krieger J, Sara N. Bleich, Stephanie Scarmo, and Shu Wen Ng (2021), Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Reduction Policies: Progress and Promise. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth090419-103005

[20] WHO. World Health Organization. WHO Global database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action (GINA). Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021, 2021.

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