UK Prime Minister hopeful Boris Johnson has pledged that if he wins, he will review so-called “sin taxes” on sugary, salty and fatty foods to examine whether these levies really work and how they impact those with lower incomes.
He also vowed that he will not introduce any new levies on these unhealthy foods as well as tobacco and alcohol until the review is complete.
“If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise. Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective […] ‘sin taxes’ really are, and if they actually change behaviour”, Johnson pointed out.
Reiterating his opposition to a milkshake tax, he described it as something that “clobber those who can least afford it".
In this context, Johnson referred to the UK’s looming withdrawal from the EU on 31 October, saying that the country “will have a historic opportunity to change the way politics is done in this country”.
“A good way to start would be basing tax policy on clear evidence”, Johnson underscored.
His remarks come after Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell insisted that taxes on unhealthy foods had “a positive effect” given that obesity currently causes more cancer cases than smoking in Britain.
“They have been highly effective in bringing down smoking rates to record lows, including within deprived communities, and the Treasury's own analysis showed the tax on sugary drinks took 90 million kg of sugar out of the nation's diet on day one. Physical activity is one way to lose weight, but the government also has a big role to play if we are to significantly reduce obesity levels”, Mitchell noted.
The so-called “sugar tax”, which was introduced by then-Chancellor George Osborne, came into effect in April 2018, and was specifically aimed at tackling childhood obesity. The levy reportedly brought a whopping £275 million ($345 million) to state coffers.
The next UK PM is poised to be announced on 23 July, with Johnson remaining the frontrunner after gaining 162 votes in the final parliamentary vote for MPs last month. In May, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she was standing down after her Brexit deal flopped.