KARACHI: The Department of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS, R&C) has recommended that the Treasury Department increase taxes on sugary beverages (SSBs) including carbonated drinks in the upcoming budget to make them inaccessible to the masses due to their importance cause health hazards, The News has learned.
“Yes. The Prime Minister’s (SAPM) Special Assistant for Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan, has given the Treasury Secretary a recommendation to increase taxes on sugary drinks at the request of health professionals, particularly major diabetologists in Pakistan.” An NHS official, R & C confirmed on Saturday.
The National Health Service official who asked for anonymity said the Dr. Faisal Sultan decided to recommend an increase in taxes on sugary and carbonated drinks after the Diabetic Association of Pakistan (DAP) letters to health officials and the Federal Board of Revenue officials (FBR) calling on them to “artificially sweetened beverages “unaffordable for most of the Pakistani population because of their health hazards.
“It is not up to the Treasury and the FBR to decide whether or not to accept the recommendation, but right now Pakistan is facing an epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Diseases are all linked and need to be controlled at the same time, ”added the health official.
Regarding the DAP’s letter, the official said he had urged authorities to double sugary beverages (SSB) taxes in the upcoming household and said diabetes is growing alarmingly in Pakistan, which has the fourth highest type of burden, 2 diabetes worldwide with more than 19 million cases.
On the other hand, the renowned diabetologist and general secretary of the DAP, Prof. Abdul Basit, said the DAP had applied to increase the federal excise tax from 11.5% to 20% on sugary beverages (SSB), which unfortunately are becoming an increasingly important part of food consumption of households with an increase of more than 10 percentage points in recent years, with a gradual increase in production and a decrease in price.
“We also learned that health officials are also convinced that taxes and excise duties on sugary beverages should be increased in order to reduce their consumption in Pakistan. Let’s hope that the Ministry of Finance takes this seriously and makes decisions in the better interest of the people, ”said Prof. Abdul Basit.
According to him, SSBs, including soft drinks, are all liquids sweetened with various forms of added sugars and include products that range from sodas to flavored milk. “The high consumption of these SSBs is a leading cause of obesity and related NCDs, including diabetes. Unfortunately, SSBs are becoming an increasingly important part of household food consumption. The increasing uptake of SSB is a major concern for public health professionals as it will further increase obesity and related diseases like diabetes. “
He claimed that DAP represents people with diabetes mellitus in Pakistan, which is a major public health burden and threat to the country’s economy. He warned that diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate in the country and one in four Pakistani adults has type 2 diabetes, according to the 2nd National Diabetes Survey of Pakistan 2016-17.
“Overweight and obesity are important risk factors for the early development of diabetes. According to the Steps Survey (2014-15) for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), more than four in ten adults in Pakistan are obese or overweight, while 37 percent have high blood pressure. “
The respected diabetologist believed that there was an urgent need to create a favorable environment by making policy changes to reduce the consumption of these SSBs. He said increasing the tax on SSBs is an evidence-based first step towards reducing obesity and related diseases like diabetes. “This policy has been adopted by more than 40 countries. The evidence from India, South Africa, Mexico, Australia and other countries confirms the effectiveness of tax increases for SSBs in reducing their consumption, reducing obesity and related diseases. “
The WHO and World Bank (WB) also recommended increasing taxes on SSB to reduce obesity and related diseases like diabetes. However, he regretted that Pakistan had low taxes on SSB compared to countries in the region such as India and the Maldives and many other countries such as Saudi Arabia in Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, he said.
“On behalf of the association, I call on the federal government to make the following changes within the framework of the Finance Act 2021-22: Increase the federal excise tax on SSB from 11.5 to 20 percent and create a category of SSB that includes sugary drinks in addition to carbonated water ( Juices, energy drinks, flavored milk, iced tea, nectars, etc.) to levy an excise duty of at least 20 percent. “