Government should give priority to the public interest instead of the interest of the sugar industry.

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Islamabad, This joint press conference has been organized by Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), Diabetic Association of Pakistan, Nation Development Organization, Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance, Pakistan Medical Association, National Commission on the Rights of Children, Child Rights Movement, Pakistan Family Physicians, Senior physician Forum, Pakistan Kidney Patient Association and other Public Health Advocates.

Accompanying on the occasion were former Commissioner Income Tax Hafeez Khan, former MPA Tehseen Fawad, PP-16 General Secretary Noorin Gilani, PANAH Vice President Ghulam Abbas, Scanning Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance Coordinator Alia Habib, Civil Society, Medical, A large number of social, legal, educational and journalistic experts and others participated. The press conference started with the recitation of the Holy Quran.

The purpose of this press conference is to expose interference of beverage industry in fiscal policies by Government of Pakistan in Budget 2021-22.

Sana Ullah Ghumman, General Secretary, Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) said that Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination has submitted a strong proposal to FBR for increasing FED on Sugar Sweetened Beverages to minimum of 20%. By considering the importance of this policy change, Minister Health Dr. Faisal Sultan Wrote letter to Minister Finance requesting his personal attention for increasing FED on SSBs. All above organizations endorsed the proposal and wrote letters to policy makers at FBR and Ministry of Finance for increasing FED to 20% in the budget.
However, we are saddened to note that after the meeting of beverage industry with Minister Finance and later with Prime Minister of Pakistan, the industry succeeded to push back this life saving proposal. We are highly concerned and record our protest on the approach of our political leadership for stopping this life saving policy change in exchange for profits of the beverage industry. The interest of beverage industry has been given preference over the life of our children and young adults who are victims of these unhealthy beverages.

Sana Ullah Ghumman said that we request prime Minister of Pakistan and Finance Minister to reconsider their decision and urge our parliamentarians from Government and opposition parties for supporting this life saving policy of increasing FED on SSBs in the budget.
Professor Dr. Abdul Basit, General Secretary, Diabetic Association of Pakistan said that High consumption of Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) like sodas, juices and energy drinks by adults and children in Pakistan is one of the major causes of obesity and related NCDs like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, some types of cancers, and even tooth decay.

In 2015, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics estimated Rs. 428 billion as annual cost of overweight and obesity in Pakistan.Nearly 2200 people die every day due to non-communicable diseases in Pakistan as per WHO data of 2016.One crore children are unhealthy in Pakistan due to unhealthy food n ssb items.four lac people invalid due to diabetes.

He said that According to NCDs Steps Survey of Pakistan (2014-15), more than four out of ten adults (41.3%) are obese or overweight, while 37% have hypertension.Similarly, every 4th adult (26%) is suffering from type 2 diabetes as per second National Diabetes Survey of Pakistan conducted in 2016-17. According to the International Diabetes Federation 2019, Pakistan has the 4th highest burden of type 2 diabetes worldwide with more than 19 million cases.Due to high content of Sugar, the juices are equally dangerous as the carbonated beverages. The government must not provide any tax relief to juice industry in the budget.

The opinion poll2021 data shows that nearly 78% Pakistani adults support increasing taxes on SSBs. More than 8 out of 10 of Pakistani adults support the government taking steps to discourage consumption of SSBs.The Pakistani public want the government to take action to protect the health of the people and the nation. Government should increase minimum of 20% Federal Excise Duty on SSBs to save lives of thousands of people in Pakistan.

Tahseen Fawad, Chairperson Nation Development Organization said that we are active for the development of the nation, no nation can develop without a healthy lifestyle.

Hafeez Khan, former commissioner of Income Tax, Ghulam Abbas, vice-president of Panah ,nureen gelani , roohi and Alia Habib, coordinator of Scanning Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance, said that health is life and its protection should be the priority of the government.

A series of questions and answers began at the end of the press conference, after which the event came to an end.

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