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Lifting Ban On Alcoholic Beverages Will Lead To Increased Accidents, Others, Experts Warn

Medical experts have warned that lifting the ban on alcoholic beverages will lead to acute health complications, increased road traffic accidents, increased risk of abuse of alcohol, liver problems, heart-related problems, and cancers, among others.

The experts spoke following the resolution of the House of Representatives and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to lift the ban on the sale and consumption of sachet alcoholic beverages in the country.

The deputy spokesman for the House of Reps, Philip Agbese, said lifting the ban would end when the economy fully recovered from its current strain.

On 1st of February, 2024, NAFDAC commenced the enforcement of the ban on the importation, manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of alcoholic beverages in sachets, PET, and glass bottles of 200ml and below.

NAFDAC DG, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, said the decision was based on the recommendation of a high-powered committee of the Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, and the industry represented by the Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers, Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria, in December 2018.

However, the move to enforce the ban has generated repeated protests by distillers and labour unions, who said the ban would cost 500,000 workers their jobs, and ruin N800bn investments.

Speaking on the effect of lifting the ban on alcoholic sachet drinks, a Professor of Public Health/Consultant Public Health Physician at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Tanimola Akande, said the lifting of the ban is unfortunate and will lead to alcohol-related problems.

Akande said, “Sachet alcohol beverages contain ethanol, which in high concentration leads to alcohol poisoning. Some are adulterated with methanol and some other toxic substances. They are relatively cheap and therefore accessible to many adults and even minors.

“The unfortunate thing is that their processing and sales are not controlled. Thus, it is a public health concern. It can lead to alcohol-related diseases like liver diseases and cardiovascular diseases, in addition to acute alcohol behavioural issues that may increase road accidents and crime, among others.

“The ban by NAFDAC was a welcome decision from the perspective of public health. The lifting of the ban is rather unfortunate as this will increase consumption of alcohol and thus result in an increase in alcohol-related health problems.”

A family medicine expert at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, Dr Oluwajimi Sodium also emphasised that the government and NAFDAC should educate the manufacturers, the public, and the stakeholders on the need for the ban.

Speaking further on the dangers of lifting the ban, Sodipo said it would lead to increased health risks, especially for the vulnerable and the children.

“With the lifting of the ban, a lot of young people below the age of 18, the vulnerable, and people that shouldn’t drink alcohol officially will now be able to obtain it quite easily, and it has a lot of complications like acute complications, increased road traffic accidents, increased risk of abuse of alcohol, deaths, and long-term problems, liver problems, heart-related problems, and cancers -they are becoming quite common now because people just abuse it,” he noted.

Corroborating, the President of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, Prof Muhammad Muhammad, stressed that lifting the ban would lead to many more health complications.

Muhammad said, “One of the problems of having that is that one makes accessibility easy, especially for the vulnerable group, and the children. Some people can even skip their meals just to buy alcoholic beverages. So, a lot of people are likely to get addicted and have more health problems.”

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