In recent years, all states in Nigeria including Abuja, the federal capital, have witnessed a concerning trend in the alcohol industry—the rapid proliferation of sachets dry gin. These small, cheap packets of hard drinks have gained sudden popularity, especially among low-income Nigerians.
Places where drinking of dry gin and other types of alcohol were hitherto proscribed, such as the northern part of Nigeria, are also not left out. They are now being consumed as and like water.
While the affordability and accessibility of sachet dry gin might appear delightful to consumers, the widespread drinking of these products raises various social, economic, and health concerns.
These sachet dry gins are typically sold at very low prices, making them affordable for even the most economically disadvantaged individuals. This affordability has contributed to their widespread use, particularly in areas such as car parks, markets, among others. However, this accessibility comes at a significant cost to public health and societal well-being.
One of the primary concerns associated with the proliferation of sachet dry gin is its potential to exacerbate alcohol-related health issues. Due to its high alcohol content and low cost, consumers are more likely to overindulge, leading to increased instances of alcohol-related illnesses and accidents.
Chronic health problems such as liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and addiction can arise from excessive consumption of alcohol, and sachet dry gin’s accessibility contributes to this escalating crisis.
The social consequences of the widespread use of sachet dry gin are equally troubling. Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to recurring cases of accidents on our roads, domestic violence, crime rates, and family breakdowns. The affordability of these products makes them accessible to underage individuals as well, potentially leading to increased rates of underage drinking and its associated problems.
About a year ago, I saw a boy around FESTAC, Lagos, who, I assumed, should be between the age of 7-8 openly drinking sachets of dry gin- this is what should be for adults with working minds who should be able to decide what is right and wrong for themselves. Where are his parents? I quizzed. A moment after, I saw someone whom I want to believe is his mother walking towards her heavily packed mobile store of ‘ogogoro’ – of course seeing her son sipping down the hard drink- without minding whose ox is gored. This is nothing commendable.
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has stopped the registration of alcohol in sachets and small volume Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and glass bottles below 200ml but they are still very much around.
To address these issues, a multi-faceted approach is required. First, there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to introduce stricter regulations and enforcement in the alcohol industry. The government must take proactive measures to control the production, distribution, and sale of sachet dry gin. This may involve a total ban of sachet gins, introducing higher taxes, controlled licensing requirements, among others.
The selling of alcohol, however small, should be entirely banned in car parks across Nigeria. This should be part of many strategic efforts by governments at all levels to end rising cases of accidents on our roads, especially those that may be caused by drunk driving.
In 2022, no fewer than 14 people were killed and 24 others injured after a drunk driver ploughed his vehicle into crowds watching bikers at a popular carnival in Calabar. It was a terrible moment to recall. There are other unfortunate cases out there. Only that they hardly make it to the mainstream news desks.
Public awareness campaigns are also crucial in addressing the harmful effects of sachet dry gin consumption. Educational initiatives can inform the public about the health risks associated with excessive alcohol intake and highlight the potential consequences of overindulgence. These campaigns should target both consumers and sellers and discourage the sale of alcohol to minors.