Islamabad, (Parliament Times) : Raising serious concern about the deteriorating diabetes situation, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has once again asked governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including Pakistan, to increase excise duty on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to reduce their consumption and decrease the crippling burden of obesity and type 2 diabetes on national health systems. IDF is an umbrella organization of over 240 national diabetes associations in over 160 countries and territories. It represents the interests of the growing number of people affected by diabetes and those at risk.
In a letter issued from the global organization’s headquarters in Brussels and written by Andrew Boulton (President) and Akhtar Hussain (President-Elect), governments are asked to give serious consideration to formulate effective fiscal policies, particularly increased taxation on sugary drinks to tackle the situation. IDF estimates that more than 573 million people around the world are living with diabetes and every 10th person on the planet is affected. However, Pakistan tops the list of countries as the 3rdhighest number of people living with diabetes accumulating to 33 million people (source: IDF Atlas 2021). To date, around 50 countries have introduced such measures, including Bahrain, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.Unfortunately, FBR and Ministry of Finance in Pakistan has yet not taken any concrete measures for taxing sugary drinks in Pakistan, though Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination has already requested this.
The letter highlights the fast-paced growth of the disease at the global level, quadrupling in 30 years, from an estimated 108 million in 1980 to 537 million adults aged 20–79 years today. Without sufficient action to bend the curve, the total number is predicted to rise to 643 million (11.3%) by 2030 and to 753 million (12.2%) by 2045. IDF estimates for 2021 suggest diabetes was responsible for 46.7 million deaths worldwide, of which close to one-third (32.6%) were premature (occurring in people under 60 years old) and preventable through a healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity. Around 400,000 people die each year in Pakistan due to health conditions related to diabetes.
The letter states that there is compelling evidence of research that demonstrates a strong association between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. WHO guidelines recommend children and adults limit their consumption of free sugars to less than 10% of their daily energy intake in order to prevent obesity (this is the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of table sugar). The guidelines suggest reducing this amount by half to gain additional health benefits. There are 40 grams of free sugars (10 teaspoons of table sugar) in a can of sugary drink. Studies indicate that people who consume 1-2 cans of SSBs or more each day have a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the vast majority (around 90%) of diabetes worldwide but can be effectively managed through education, support, and the adoption of healthy lifestyles, combined with medication as required.
The letter also made a reference to the World Bank Group 2020 publication “Taxes on Sugar-sweetened Beverages: International Evidence and Experiences on the impact”. The publication explains how taxing SSBs leads to increased prices that act as a deterrent to their consumption and how the policy plays an important role in helping raise public awareness of the detrimental health effects of over-consuming SSBs. It also shows how industry players, in response to taxation and downward pressure on sales, have reformulated their products, by lowering sugar content for example and taken other measures to address increased taxation. Finally, how increased tax revenues serve to provide additional revenue for investment in encouraging healthy habits by incentivizing the consumption of products that promote health and supporting action to encourage increased physical activity.
For more information about this letter, please contact; MsHusnaKhattak, Focal Person Media, Pakistan National Heart Association [email protected]