Sugar sweetened beverages


The National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) hosted a conference with legislators to discuss the dangers of sugar-sweetened drinks among adolescents and children in the nation.
Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) believes that the government should increase the taxes on Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) that are much harmful for health to get more revenue instead of increasing prices of basic items like petrol.
Approximately 40% of Pakistani children are stunted, and nearly 41% of adults are overweight or obese, owing mostly to the use of SSBs. According to research done in 2015, Pakistan spends Rs428 billion annually on obesity-related disorders. If the matter is not addressed, every second woman in the country will be overweight or obese by 2025.
Experts offered their views at a news conference held under the auspices of the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH). Over 25 journalists from the twin cities of Islamabad-Rawalpindi attended the event, which was hosted by General Secretary PANAHSana Ullah Ghumman. On the occasion, Vice President PANAH Squadron Leader (Retd) Ghulam Abbas was also present.
At the start of the media session, PANAH General Secretary noted that roughly 30% of sugar consumed in Pakistan is eaten domestically, while 70% is consumed in industry, with the beverage industry being the largest user of sugar. Increased intake of sugar sweetened drinks is one of the leading causes of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other noncommunicable illnesses, according to him.
Non-communicable illnesses claim the lives of up to 2,200 individuals per day in Pakistan. As a result, we must pay attention to our diets and refrain from drinking sugary beverages in order to prevent future generations from life-threatening ailments such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, according to the general secretary.
He claims that raising the tariff on sugary beverages will lower the burden of sickness while simultaneously boosting money. The number one cause of disease and mortality is a poor diet. According to him, changing one’s diet can help avert illnesses and fatalities.
Dr. Munawar Hussain, Adviser Food Policy Program at PANAH, told the media session attendees that we are confronting several malnutrition concerns.
Obesity among women in Pakistan grew from 28% to 38% between 2011 and 2018, while it increased to 44% in urban areas. According to him, the prevalence of obesity among Pakistani youngsters has risen in the previous seven years. Pakistan is now rated fourth in the world in terms of diabetes prevalence. We may prevent a lot of health risks by limiting our use of SSBs, he stated.
NCRC Chairperson Afshan Tahseen urged all stakeholders, particularly legislators, to support the inclusion of a health levy in the finance bill 2021-22 and to speak up in parliament to prevent any further delays in amending the bill on an extremely important issue that is jeopardizing our children’s health and future.
Excessive consumption of added sugars, particularly from sugary drinks, contributes to the high prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity, which is especially dangerous for these age groups.
MNA Uzma Riaz expressed her concerns about the hazards of SSBs to children and teenagers. She also emphasized the need of eating a healthy and balanced diet, emphasizing the usage of naturally nourishing foods such as milk and fruits.
Dr. Nosheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Member of the National Assembly, stated that boosting public health is one of the present government’s main priorities.
Munawwar Hussain provided data and numbers gathered by PANAH, claiming that 17% of Pakistani youth consume SSBs on a daily basis. PANAH also indicated that enacting the Health Levy Bill and imposing a Federal Excise Duty on SSBs will have the intended effect of reducing SSB demand.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, Pakistan ranked fourth in the world in terms of diabetes burden in 2019, with 19.4 million patients. Despite this, sugarcane farming in Pakistan continues to grow at a faster rate than any other significant crop. In the country, almost a million hectares of land are being used for sugar farming
Recently, Pakistan Health Research Council has conducted a nationally-representative opinion poll in 2021 in collaboration with the Pakistan National Heart Association to gauge public support for increasing taxes on sweetened beverages.
According to poll results, approximately 78 percent of Pakistani adult’s favour raising taxes on sugary beverages.
This information was shared during a webinar hosted by the National Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat of the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives in collaboration with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, SUN Academia and Research Network, and Pakistan National Heart Association.
Health experts said that the excess consumption of sugary drinks is one of the major causes of obesity and its related diseases, increasing risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver and kidney damage, heart disease, and some types of cancers.
Sugarcane is a water-hungry crop, having severe consequences for a country dealing with a water shortage. Our farmers, on the other hand, are prone to thinking in terms of short-term profitability, which is further encouraged by political favour and power. Sugar is advertised as being more resilient in the face of changing weather, as well as requiring less labour in the fields. Long-term consequences for GDP, economic growth, and health are therefore overlooked in favour of increased profits and relative comfort.
Our proposals to eliminate sugar price supports, export subsidies, and the import tax on sugar imports are intended to be taken seriously by the government. The sugar market must be deregulated in order to promote free commerce, which will attract investment and increase competitiveness. Furthermore, the resources squandered on creating market distortions that benefit our sugar barons may be better spent on bolstering the cotton sector.
The introduction of measures that assist the textile sector has yielded significant results for Pakistan’s economy, resulting in the creation of a large number of employment and a reduction in the country’s foreign reserve strain. The unprecedented growth in exports saw last year demonstrates this. The importance of the textile sector was highlighted in a recent State Bank study. The textile industry had a 21 percent gain. Textile exports were $13 billion the previous year, but with further efforts, the sector has surpassed its goals, reaching $15.5 billion. However, low productivity in the cotton sector jeopardises the profitability of the export-oriented textile sector, endangering an industry that accounts for 60% of the country’s total exports. As a result, we must consider the negative consequences of preserving the sugar industry’s interests, not only on our people’s health but also on our economy and the environment.

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