Delaying tax on sugar sweetened beverage is double edge sword hitting both health and economy: Health Experts

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Islamabad: The civil society organizations criticized minibudget and raised suggestions for the Ministry of Finance and National Assembly. Delaying tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is double edge sward, hitting public health and economy of the country. This has been said in the media talk by civil society organizations here at the local hotel organized by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH). Sana Ullah Ghumman, General Secretary and Director Operations of PANAH hosted the event. Mr. Munawar Hussain, Consultant Food Policy Program at Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Prof. Dr. Abdul Basit, General Secretary Diabetic Association of Pakistan, and other addresses the workshop. The media session was attended by a large number of representatives of civil society organizations working on child health, nutrition, and child rights, Director NCDs Dr. Samrah Mazhar, Coordinator Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians Dr. Ghulam Raza, National Coordinator Child Rights Movement Zohra Naqvi, General Secretary Burhani Foundation Murtaza Burhan, Advocate IkhlaQ Awan, Chairperson Fatima Malik Welfare Trust Fatima Malik, senior Journalist Khalid Chud, Prof Rashid Sidhu, Dr. Ayesha Sana, Coordinator Women Wing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Islamabad Rohi Hashmi and other civil society and a large number of journalists participated. The Civil Society Alliance meeting started with a recitation from Holy Quran.

Mr. Sana Ullah Ghumman, General Secretary and Director Operations of PANAH welcomed the participants. He raised his concern and said that delaying a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages will increase obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and other non-communicable diseases in the country. He said that sugar-sweetened beverages are a double-edged sword that is damaging people’s health, increasing mortality, and hitting the economy of our country. Director NCDs Dr. Samrah Mazhar said that sugary drinks are not our priority in life, we should choose a healthy diet, taxes will deteriorate the situation of diabetes and other NCDs in the country. We should ensure access to insulin and other treatment services to control diabetes.

Advocate Ikhlaq  Awan and Roohi Hashmi said that Our law and policymakers should consider increasing higher taxes on all types of sugary drinks covering flavored milk to sodas, juices, and energy drinks. However, he welcomed the increase of tax on flavored milk in the minibudget. General Secretary Burhani Foundation Murtaza Burhani and other participants said that flavored milk is loaded with a high amount of sugar and is increasing child obesity and other diseases. He shared that overweight and obesity are risk factors for 13 of the 15 major types of cancer, increasing the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. Decreasing SSB consumption can reduce the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases

Mr. Munawar Hussain, Consultant Food Policy Program at Global Health Advocacy Incubators said that fiscal policies have an important role in setting priorities for public health. Pakistan is facing a triple burden of malnutrition which includes undernutrition, obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies. Government should consider addressing malnutrition through a holistic and multi-sectorial approach. He said that obesity and non-communicable diseases are increasing in the country at an alarming rate. He said that various studies reflect clear evidence between increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and an increase in diabetes.  He mentioned that meta-analysis of 8 studies (including more than 280,000 participants) found that a higher intake of SSBs was associated with a 30% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. He said that this situation needs urgent policy measures to reduce the menace of diabetes and other NCDs in the country. He said that increasing tax on SSBs is an evidence-based strategy to reduce its consumption, obesity, and associated diseases like diabetes.

 

Prof. Dr. Abdul Basit, General Secretary Diabetic Association of Pakistan said that nearly 31% of adults are now living with diabetes in Pakistan. While referring report by International Diabetes Federation, released in November 2021, he said that number of adults living with diabetes has increased from 19.4 million to 33 million in just the last two years in Pakistan. In addition, more than 10 million people are living with impaired glucose tolerance in the country and further deteriorating the prevalence of diabetes. The annual expenditure on diabetes in Pakistan has increased to 2640 million US dollars in 2021 which is a great threat to our economy. He said that liquid sugars in sugary drinks alter the body’s metabolism, affecting insulin, cholesterol, and metabolites that cause high blood pressure and inflammation. These changes to the body increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tooth decay, metabolic syndrome, and liver disease. He mentioned that the Diabetic Association of Pakistan has repeatedly requested Chairman FBR and Finance Minister for increasing taxes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages to reduce their consumption.

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