7.5% VAT on diapers may force use of skin-irritating rags, doctors warn FG
Paediatricians in the country have warned that introduction of 7.5 per cent Value-Added Tax on baby diapers by the Federal Government could lead to rise in the use of napkins and rags, both of which may irritate babies’ delicate skin.
They added that when such development becomes a regular feature among nursing mothers, personal hygiene should be adopted to avoid infection.
In an advertorial published a fortnight ago, Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service, Muhammad Nami, had announced that the main objective of the 2020 value-added tax modification order was to provide a clear definition of each item listed in the first schedule to the VAT Act through an extended list of the items so exempted.
“The following items included in the breakdown are not exempted from VAT as they were not listed in Schedule 1 to the VAT Act or in a previous ministerial order: (a) Natural gas (b) Essential raw materials for the production of pharmaceutical products (c) Renewable energy equipment (d) Raw materials for production of baby diapers and sanitary towel.
“These items shall continue to be liable to VAT at 7.5% until otherwise provided in an appropriate statutory instrument.
“Consequently, all taxpayers, practitioners, officials, other stakeholder and the general public should be guided accordingly,” Nami stressed.
Less than two weeks after the new VAT rate was announced, the baby diapers and towels market responded slightly with a new price regime.
In local community marts such as Master Supermarket & Stores in Ebute Metta area of Lagos, a single unit of Molfix diaper, formerly sold at N50, has been adjusted to N60; while a pack of 88 pieces of the same brand is sold for N4,000.
Huggies, a competing brand, sold for N3,000.
At Tonyson Supermart in Yaba, the price remains the same. The same could not, however, be said about e-commerce sites like Jumia which retails the same Huggies pack for N4,900 and Molfix for N5,100.
Reacting to the news, Mrs. Ebere Onuchu, a marketing executive in a Lagos private firm with a six-month-old baby, said she was not bothered about the news, adding that she knew the pandemic would inevitably make most governments to consider taxing every household goods while it lasts.
She was, however, worried that some nursing mothers might not have the same understanding and would definitely feel the impact of a new price adjustment on baby diapers.
“Seriously, I am worried about how these mothers would cope, because all fingers are not equal.
“I have a feeling some may either reshuffle it with napkins and pieces of local fabrics or resort to using the latter completely,” she said.
Speaking on the health implication of constant use of napkins, Consultant Paediatrician at Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos, Dr. Emokpae Abieyuwa, said the major disadvantage with napkin use was the need to monitor the baby more carefully.
‘If babies get wet, you need to change the napkin immediately, unlike diapers is a little bit more absorbent.
“The risk of infection is not higher with a napkin when compared to diapers once you change regularly,” he said.
The physician said the only specific health condition associated with prolonged use of both protective items is ‘ammoniacal dermatitis.’
Ammoniacal Dermatitis develops when the skin is exposed to prolonged wetness, increased skin pH caused by the combination, and subsequent reactions, of urine and faeces, and the resulting breakdown of the stratum corneum, or outermost layer of the skin.
“We hope the mothers will adhere to simple basic hygiene such as hand washing, which some are not used to,” he noted.
Another consultant paediatrician in Lagos, Dr. Ngozi Ulo cautioned that after each diaper change or wash, caregivers especially mothers are expected to wash their hands thoroughly.
“If this is properly done, there will be no issues. Diapers make the care of babies less cumbersome, save time and money for detergents, water and other things. In the villages, bits of wrapper are still used as napkins for babies,” she stated.
The doctor, however, counselled that if some mothers find the price unbearable, they could deploy the use of cloth napkins at home and keep diapers for outings.
“If the cloth napkins are well sanitised, there shouldn’t be any issues. But something tells me mothers will buy the diapers somehow no matter the cost,” she stressed.