The Conversation; 24-02-2024

On February 5, 2024, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control announced a ban on alcoholic beverages sold in sachets or bottles less than 200ml. The agency asserts that the ban will, among other benefits, protect underage children from easy access to alcohol. However, the Federal House of Representatives, Nigeria’s lower chamber of the national assembly, has asked that the ban be suspended pending investigation. Medical sociologist Emeka Dumbili, who has researched issues around young people’s use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, explains why he believes the ban is needed and how it can work.

Sachet alcoholic drinks have high potency. Kofo Belo-Osagie

Alcohol consumption is growing among young Nigerians. Although alcohol consumption is not new to Nigerian society, historically only adults consumed it because drinking signified that one was an elder. Unwritten rules constrained youths from drinking palm wine, which was the only available alcoholic beverage then. It was believed they were too immature to handle the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Nowadays, a rising number of Nigerian adolescents and young adults consume alcohol. Some even see drinking as fashionable and those who abstain as old fashioned. Studies have shown that young Nigerians are consuming more alcohol. For example, studies published in 20152021 and 2023 found a 30%, 34% and 55.8% drinking prevalence among youths in Nigeria. These statistics suggest that there will be more alcohol-related problems such as brain underdevelopment or damage, alcohol-induced sicknesses, truancy, violence, injuries and death among young people than there used to be.

How do liquor sachets contribute to the problem?

Research has shown that several factors are responsible for youth alcohol consumption in Nigeria. Chief among them is unregulated alcohol marketing. Alcohol corporations in Nigeria increasingly use aggressive marketing strategies, advertising and sales promotions such as buy-two-get-one-free that make different brands of such alcohol readily available, accessible and affordable.

Alcoholic beverages packaged in less than 200ml plastic bottles and sachets are affordable and widely available in retail shops, supermarkets, roadside kiosks and eateries in Nigeria.

They are also sold close to primary and secondary schools, where children spend time away from their parents. This is against international standard practices.

Sachet alcoholic beverages are also easy to carry and can be concealed from adults because of their small size. Young people can easily buy and drink them. Another reason why sachet drinks are a problem is that they are spirit-based beverages with high potency. They can contain between 40% and 60% alcohol, which is potentially more harmful.

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