In an era of mass consumption, when a bottle of cola is more affordable than fresh fruit, the World Health Organisation’s drastic remedy to impose a 20% to 50% soda tax might not go down well with corporate interests of the processed food industry. Yet it is an essential policy to ponder, for the sake of the health of citizens everywhere. The recommended tax should not only be limited to soda, the WHO insists, it should apply to all sugar-sweetened beverages, a category that includes fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened ice tea.

In the UK manufacturers will be taxed according to the quantity of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import. It is up to the Pakistani government to decide how it wishes to impose this tax, as the need to do so exceeds the consequences of such an action.

The backlash from the multinational food companies may be severe, but such a decision will save billions in healthcare costs. The World Health Organisation has good reason to suggest such a controversial remedy. More than half a billion of the world’s adults are now obese, including 11% of men and 15% of women. Those rates are more than double what they were in 1980. In Pakistan the situation is much more dire.

Pakistan ranked 9th out of 188 countries in terms of obesity, according to the Global Burden of Disease study of 2014. The lack of awareness exacerbates the situation as the Pakistani masses have little education about nutrition and rely on myths and old wives’ tales to identify what is ‘healthy’. An increase in the cost of sugary drinks has the potential to create incentives for producers to give healthier alternatives at cheaper prices, if a policy is properly planned and executed.