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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a workshop while advocating for additional tax on unnecessary items, especially items with serious health consequences, said such taxation will not only help generate additional revenue but would also help reduce medical expenditures and improve the health of the masses.

Addressing a media session organised by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) aimed to indicate gaps and propose a way forward for sugary drink’s tax policy, health experts said that increasing tax on sugary drinks can help generate significant revenue and reduce medical expenditure.

The common man is not affected when tax is increased on sugary drinks as these are not necessary items and their consumption only addsto diseases burden and increases hospital expenditure. Pakistan ranks third highest in the world with more than 33 million people with diabetes.

The annual cost of managing diabetes has increased to USD 2,640 million in Pakistan. The PANAH’s General Secretary, Sanaullah Ghumman, said that for the last four decades, his association has been working to save the lives of people, especially the youth, from heart and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Sugary drinks are one of the major causes of these diseases, and every section of society, media, and health professionalsis raising their voices to reduce the consumption of these harmful drinks.

Munawar Hussain, consultant Global Health Advocacy Incubator, said that excessive consumption of sugary drinks is a growing threat to health and economy in the country. “Increasing tax on sugary drinks is a triple win for the government, as the policy intervention does not cost anything to the government, help reduce disease burden and hospital expenditure, and increase revenue,” said Munawar.

“Government should consider increasing tax on all types of sugary drinks including carbonated beverages, energy drinks, juices, iced tea, squashes, and syrups for better outcomes of the policy.”

“Another important consideration is that water and unsweetened milk should not be taxed,” he added and further urged the government to increase the federal excise duty on sugary drinks to 50 per centto minimise the consumption of sugary drinks.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr Khawaja Masood from the Ministry of Health said that NCDs are on the rise in Pakistan and we fully support fiscal policies aimed at reducing the consumption of sugary drinks. “Research shows that sugary drinks are among the major causes of obesity leading to type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, cancers, and many other chronic diseases,” he said.

“The consumption of flavoured milk and yoghurt is equally harmful to public health as other sugary drinks. People should choose healthier alternatives like unsweetened milk, lassi, and water,” he added.

Aziz Alvi, representing the media, said that the beverage industry is using various tactics to oppose the tax on sugary drinks which are causing more and more diseases to the public. The media shall continue disseminating facts and exposing interference of the industry in the policy process.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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