DAP calls for doubling taxes on sugary drinks in Pakistan

The Diabetic Association of Pakistan (DAP) has demanded of the authorities to double the taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in the coming budget, saying diabetes is growing at an alarming rate in Pakistan, which has the 4th highest burden of type 2 diabetes worldwide with more than 19 million cases.

“The Diabetic Association of Pakistan requests increasing the Federal Excise Duty from 11.5 per cent to 20 per cent on sugar- sweetened beverages (SSBs), which are, unfortunately, becoming an increasingly essential part of household food consumption with more than a 10 per cent point increase in the last few years along with a gradual increase in production and decrease in the price,” said Prof Abdul Basit, secretary general of DAP, in a letter to the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Friday.

Prof Basit, a renowned diabetologist, said SSBs, including soft drinks, are any liquids that are sweetened with various forms of added sugars and include products ranging from sodas to flavoured milk.

“High consumption of these SSBs is one of the major causes of obesity and related NCDs including diabetes. Unfortunately, SSBs are becoming an increasingly essential part of household food consumption. Increasing intake of SSBs is major concern for public health experts as this will continue to increase obesity and related diseases like diabetes.”

Prof Basit added that DAP represented people living with diabetes mellitus in Pakistan, which was a major public health burden and a threat to the economy of the country. He warned that diabetes was growing at an alarming rate in the country, and as per 2nd National Diabetes Survey of Pakistan 2016-17, every 4th Pakistani adult is suffering from type 2 diabetes.

“Overweight and obesity are key risk factors leading to early development of diabetes. According to the Non-communicable Disease (NCDs) Steps Survey (2014-15), more than four out of ten adults of Pakistan are obese or overweight, while 37 per cent have hypertension,”

The eminent diabetologist maintained that there was an urgent need to create an enabling environment by making policy changes to decrease the consumption of these SSBs. He said increasing the tax on SSBs was an evidence-based first step to reduce 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 increases in taxes on SSBs to reduce its consumption, reduction in obesity and related disease.”

Prof Basit further said WHO and the World Bank also recommended increasing taxes on SSBs to reduce obesity and related diseases like diabetes, but he deplored that Pakistan had low taxes on SSBs in comparison to countries in the region like India and Maldives and many other countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.

“On behalf of the association, I request the federal government to make following changes through the Finance Bill 2021-22: Increase Federal Excise Duty on SSBs from 11.5 to 20 per cent, and create a category of SSBs to include sugary drinks beyond aerated water (juices, energy drinks, flavoured milk, iced tea, nectars etc.) to impose minimum of 20 per cent excise tax.”