Tax on sugary drinks is a triple win for government; experts.

Islamabad: Increasing tax on sugary drinks can help generating significant revenue and reduce the hospital expenditure. The common man is not effected when tax is increased on sugary drinks as these are not necessary items and their consumption only add diseases burden and increase hospital expenditure. This was said by experts during the media session organized by Pakistan National Heart Association aimed to indicate gaps and propose way forward for sugary drink’s tax policy.

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 2640 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, every section of society, media, health professional are 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 government, help reduce disease burden and hospital expenditure, and increase revenue” said Munawar.

“Government should consider increasing tax on all type of sugary drinks including carbonated beverages, energy drinks, flavored dairies, juices (including fruit 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.  

We further request the Government of Pakistan to increase the federal excise duty on sugary drinks to 50% so that the consumption of sugary drinks is reduced.

Speaking to the workshop, Dr. Khawaja Masood from the Ministry of Health that non communicable diseases are on the rise in Pakistan and we fully support fiscal policies aimed 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 flavored milk and yogurt is equally harmful to the 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 tactic 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.

“Panah is working for a good cause and we stand with Panah and the media will continue to play its role to make Pakistan healthy by supporting voices of public health advocates” he added.