Diabetes physique urges Pakistan to boost taxes on sugar drinks

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KARACHI: The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has urged Pakistani authorities to double sugary beverage taxes (SSB) in the upcoming budget to reduce and increase the diabetes burden on people and families affected by diabetes do to prevent diabetes in the EU population.

“We recommend that you give serious thought to increasing the taxation of sugary beverages (SSB). We support the call by the Diabetic Association of Pakistan to increase the excise duty on SSB to 20% and to extend the category beyond its current definition to include juices, energy drinks, flavored milk, iced tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks, “IDF President Prof. Andrew Boulton and President-elect Prof. Akhtar Hussain said in a joint letter to the Pakistani government.

In their most recent letter to the FBR chairman, a copy of which is available from The News, IDF officials expressed concern about the high number of people living with diabetes in Pakistan (currently estimated at 19.4 million (conservative estimate) and the many others at high risk of developing diabetes.

“Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately hospitalized and claimed the lives of people with diabetes, which underscores the increased risk of infectious diseases for people with the disease,” they said, adding that taxation to the consumption of SSBs have been shown to be a powerful tool in reducing the burden of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Raising taxes on SSB would be very effective in countries like Pakistan, where more than a third of adults in Pakistan are either obese or overweight and therefore at increased risk for diabetes and other health problems, they added.

Prof Boulton and Prof Hussain said in their joint letter they want to encourage the Pakistani government to take action to combat diabetes in the country by taking measures specifically aimed at reducing the burden on people and families affected by diabetes are affected by reducing diabetes and doing more to prevent diabetes in the population.

“We are aware that the FBR will present its proposals for the upcoming budget to the Treasury Department on May 31st. We would like to suggest that the government give serious thought to fiscal policies (including increasing taxes on SSB), which can help reduce harmful consumption of goods and encourage citizens to make healthier choices, ”they added.

So far, around 50 countries have introduced such measures, including examples in Southeast Asia, the IDF’s Middle East and the North African region (India, Maldives, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar). In every region, diabetes is spiraling out of control and has become a global health emergency.

“Diabetes poses a significant threat to economic progress, especially in low- and middle-income countries, where more than three in four people now live with diabetes. Almost two-thirds (63%) of people with diabetes are of working age. The life-changing complications of diabetes weigh heavily on individuals, families and economies, ”they emphasized.

Constantly high blood sugar levels can lead to serious diseases of the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves and teeth. Diabetes is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases, blindness, kidney failure and amputation of the lower extremities.

They said IDF strongly recommends considering taxing SSBs to encourage healthier habits that are financially beneficial to individuals as spending on unhealthy and socially beneficial expenses in terms of savings from lower health care costs and Loss of productivity can be reduced.

“A recent study of SSB consumption trends in Pakistan (Datta and Husain, 2020) shows that carbonated beverages have become an essential part of the Pakistani diet, with SSB accounting for up to 70% of non-alcoholic beverages consumed. This is true at both ends of the income spectrum: wealthier households seem to have made SSBs a must-have, while poorer households spend increasing amounts on carbonated beverages – incomes that could be better spent on consumables are more beneficial for the family, “said you further.

Similarly, higher tax revenues can of course be used to generate additional income for investing in healthy habits by creating incentives for the consumption of health products and supporting activities to encourage increased physical activity.

“We sincerely hope that you will seriously consider our call for action to be taken to prevent diabetes by responding positively to the proposal by the Diabetic Association of Pakistan to increase the excise duty on a wide range of sugary beverages,” added she added.