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ISLAMABAD: Speakers in a seminar on Sunday agreed that the government can reduce the consumption of sugary drinks only by increasing the taxes, which will increase the national revenue and eliminate the problems related to the health of the common man.

A World Bank study recommended progressive tax increase on sugary drinks in Pakistan, they said.

Raising the tax on sugary drinks to 50 per cent will reduce its consumption. It would also help reducing the health issues including diabetes and heart disease, which will also save the national health sector budget, they said.

On the occasion of “World Health Day” organized by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), an important media session was held on promoting public health by combating harms caused by sugary drinks to health and economy of the country.

General Secretary and Director Operations of PANAH, hosted the event. Vice Chancellor Health Services Academy Dr Shehzad Ali Khan attended as a special guest.

The media session was attended by Consultant Food Policy Program at Global Health Incubator (GAHI) Munawar Hussain, National Coordinator Nutrition and NFA at Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, MNA and Parliamentary Secretary Religious Affair Aftab Jahangir, Parliamentary Officer Project Development Mian Tayyab Majeed and a large number of civil society and media representatives.

PANAH General Secretary Sana Ullah Ghumman thanked the guests and said that development was not possible without a healthy society.

He said that non communicable diseases are killing Pakistanis every day and are posing a significant burden on the national economy.

“We have to think about how we can protect our children and adult population from these diseases.”

He said that Sugary drinks are a big threat to health.

Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stomach and liver diseases, he informed.

The consumption of sugary drinks can play a havoc with your health and even more dangerous if consumed during Ramzan.

Consultant at Global Health Advocacy Incubators Munawar Hussain shared key findings from recent study by World Bank on “modelling the impact of Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) taxes on health and beyond in Pakistan”.

He said that the study clearly indicate that progressively increased taxes on SSBs will reduce its consumption, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases.

He said the major impact will be on reduction of obesity and diabetes, however, the reduction in cardiovascular diseases will also be significant.

The study also reflects that larger the tax, the larger will be the health gain and another important findings from study reflects that the average tax revenue in the first 10 years after imposing higher tax will be significantly greater than the current revenue collected through SSB taxes in Pakistan.

He said that raising tax on SSBs have substantial benefits both in term of increased revenue and keeping the people alive and healthy.

He concluded that Ministry of Finance and Federal Board of Revenue should impose higher taxes on all types of sugary drinks including sodas, juices, energy drinks, iced tea, flavoured milk and other drinks containing added sugar.

National Coordinator Nutrition and NFA at Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed said that diabetes was rising in Pakistan with an alarming rate.

The annual diabetes related expenditure in Pakistan increased to US dollar 2640 million in 2021.

He said that increasing consumption of sugary drinks has a clear link with diabetes.

He mentioned that many countries in the region and across the globe progressively increased taxes on sugary drinks to reduce its consumption.

Vice Chancellor Health Services Academy Dr Shehzad Ali Khan said that developed countries pay special attention to healthy diet, if we want development, we have to pay special attention to our diet.

He said that on this world health day, we must show our determination to take all possible measures to reduce non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, and liver and kidney diseases. Sugary drinks are among the major reasons for these diseases and we should take all possible measures to reduce its consumption.

The participants in the session said that Pakistan is already suffering from problems. Our nation cannot afford any more difficulties. Credible research around the world has shown that taxing sugary drinks is evidence based strategy to reduce its consumption and associated illnesses. Immediate implementation of the health contribution bill and increasing federal excise duty on sugary drinks must be considered by the Ministry of Finance and Federal Board of Revenue.

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ZOHARE ALI SHARIFF Apr 11, 2022 08:33pm
PANAH has been running a campaign against 'sugary drinks' now for several months. While not getting into a discussion about the merits or otherwise of their advocacy against carbonated soft drinks, I just cannot understand why their campaign exclusively targets soft drinks and makes absolutely no mention about a lot more sugar that people consume daily in their tea, bakery products, confectionery, desserts and mithai. This is all the more bewildering that the vast majority of Pakistanis rarely consume soft drinks simply because they cannot afford them, whereas their consumption of sugar from other sources remains regular and high. Even a simple plate of white rice has equivalent of 20 cubes of sugar in it, as per a BBC report.
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