Health experts demand hike in excise tax on sugary beverages

By Staff Reporter | The News International May 26, 2023

Civil society representatives and health professionals on Wednesday demanded from the government to increase excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to 50 percent in the finance bill 2023-24.

In addition, they also urged authorities not to bow the pressure from the beverage industry and their supporters in the diplomatic circles for lowering the taxes.“Beverage industry representatives and their supporters are lobbying for decreasing taxes on sugary beverages from 20 percent to 16 percent. This will not only damage efforts to minimize obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease but it would also deprive government of around Rs20 to 25 billion,” the secretary general Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) told newsmen in Islamabad.

Other leading health experts including Secretary General of Diabetic Association of Pakistan (DAP) Prof Abdul Basit also expressed concerns over reports that finance authorities were under pressure from the beverage industry for lowering taxes on the sugar-sweetened beverages, saying lowering taxes would give a negative message to World Health Organization (WHO) and International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

“At a time when Pakistani health minister and officials are taking credit for raising taxes on sugary beverages and assuring the World Health Assembly of further raising taxes on them, any move to reduce taxes would be a huge setback to Pakistan’s efforts for control of obesity, he warned.

Prof Abdul Basit informed that the national opinion poll conducted by Pakistan Health Research Council in 2021 confirmed that 78 percent Pakistani adults supported increasing tax on sugary drinks to control obesity and other non-communicable disease.

General Masuood Ur Rehman Kiani, President PANAH said several research studies confirm that the regular consumption of juices, sodas and other sugary drinks are among the major cases of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, several types of cancer, and liver and kidney diseases.

Munawar Hussain, Consultant at Global Health Advocacy Incubator said, “The estimated annual cost of managing diabetes was $2.6 billion in Pakistan in 2021. This is seriously hitting our economy and health care sector.”

Dr Khawaja Masuood Ahmed National Coordinator Nutrition and NFA at Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination said the per capita fruits and vegetable consumption is low in Pakistan as unfortunately the beverage companies promote their juices and other sugary drinks as an alternative of fruits which have high amount of sugar. The nutritionists and public health experts recommend consuming fruits and vegetables in their original form as a healthier option but not in the form of juices which are harmful to the health, he added.

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