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PESHAWAR: Prominent health professionals and other members of civil society attended a seminar on “Harm of sugar-sweetened beverages and tax policy” that was organised by the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) here. Sanaullah Ghumman, the general secretary and operations director of PANAH, hosted the event.

Consultant for Food Policy Programme at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator Munawar Hussain, Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Khyber Medical College Dr Khalid Iqbal, Technical Director of KPFSA Abdul Sittar, Director for Nutrition at the provincial health department Dr Fazal Majeed and other experts spoke on the occasion.

Sanaullah Ghumman described a statement by FPCCI president Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, which recommended an increase in the federal excise duty (FED) on sugary drinks and cigarettes, as an encouraging one. He said that raising tax on unhealthy food like sugary drinks will help deal with “economic emergency” as well as tackle “diabetic emergency” in the country.

Munawar Hussain of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator said that raising tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) will have substantial benefits both in terms of increased revenue and keeping the people alive and healthy.

He said the World Diabetes Federation released shocking statistics in November 2021, according to which Pakistan has the third highest burden of diabetes worldwide. More than 33 million people are living with diabetes, with a sharp increase of 14 million in just two years.

He said a recent study by the World Bank brought forward new evidence about Pakistan which the policymakers could use to make evidence-based changes in the tax policy. The study indicates that progressively increasing taxes on sugary drinks will reduce its consumption, thereby helping reduce the burden of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases.

Another important finding of the study is 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 concluded that the Ministry of Finance and the 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 extra sugar.

Dr Khalid Iqbal of the Khyber Medical College said that drinking just one soda a day increases the likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent for adults and 55 percent for children. He added a meta-analysis of 11 studies (including more than 300,000 participants) found a clear link between SSB consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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