Ditch the sugar tax?

Boris Johnson wants to freeze taxes on unhealthy food

The Guardian

No 10 defends sugar levy after Johnson vows to review 'sin taxes'

Downing Street has mounted a staunch defence of the government's sugar levy on soft drinks, after Boris Johnson announced he would impose a moratorium on "sin taxes" if he became prime minister.

A No 10 spokesman said the sugar levy was "government policy", and had removed 44m kg of sugar from the public's diets each year, through drinks companies reformulating their recipes.

"We assess these things as we go - but it is government policy, and of course the PM is supportive of it," he said. "If you're seeing reformulation, then by definition we are reducing the amount of sugar that people put into the drinks that they sell.

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Does the sugar tax work?

By Joe Harker

The British government introduced a sugar tax in April 2018 in an effort to tackle unhealthy lifestyles and childhood obesity.

Drinks containing more than five grams of sugar per 100ml were taxed at 18 pence per litre and those with over eight grams of sugar per 100ml taxed at 24 pence per litre.

The money raised from the tax is intended to fund sports programmes in schools, but likely next prime minister Boris Johnson isn't convinced the policy works.

The Claim:

Johnson has promised a review of the sugar tax and other unhealthy foods, pledging not to introduce more measures in the meantime.

He said the sugar tax and other "sin taxes" disproportionately affected poorer families and doubted whether they actually caused people to consume fewer unhealthy products.

Johnson suggested the policy smacked of the "nanny state" telling people how to live their lives and unfairly targeted poorer areas where more sugary drinks were consumed.

He said taxes trying to prevent obesity and unhealthy living "clobber those who can least afford it", suggesting that people should be encouraged to do more exercise by the government.

The former foreign secretary urged a freeze on "sin taxes" and said he would follow the advice of the review he intended to commission, something welcomed by health secretary Matt Hancock, a supporter of Johnson's campaign for leadership.

The Counter Claim:

Downing Street has defended the sugar tax, arguing that the policy had removed 44 million kilos of sugar from the public diet each year.

Health minister Caroline Dinenage accused Johnson's plan to review the sugar tax of being "bollocks", explaining that the tax was making companies put less sugar in their drinks.

The sugar tax hasn't raised the amount of revenue previously expected as businesses made their products healthier to avoid the tax, resulting in healthier products on the shelves.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror accused Johnson of "opportunism" as he used to champion a sugar tax during his time as Mayor of London, but has since turned on it when it suited him to do so.

They argue that his claims of fighting a "nanny state" policy that unfairly impacted poorer people sound hollow when he's offering tax cuts to high earners.

The Facts:

When Johnson was Mayor of London he introduced a 10p charge on sugary drinks sold at City Hall.

His campaign also has links to the soft drinks industry, Johnson's adviser and former spokesman Will Walden is also an executive director of communications firm Edelman, which represents Coca-Cola.

The Department for Health and Social Care reported that half the drinks that fell within the scope of the sugar tax had been altered to reduce the amount of sugar.

Health experts generally believe a sugar tax helps people cut down on the amount of sugar they consume, whether by encouraging them not to buy sugary drinks or making the manufacturers cut sugar from their products to avoid the higher rate of tax.

UK experts believe a 40 per cent reduction in added sugars to drinks over the course of five years would lower the number of adults classed as obese by around half a million and lead to 300,000 fewer cases of Type 2 diabetes.

A sugar tax in Mexico led to a reduction of between six per cent and 12 per cent in the number of sugary drinks bought, while a sugar tax introduced in California in consumption rates of sugary drinks dropping by 21 per cent and a 63 per cent increase in water being drunk in low-income areas.

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Johnson promises review of unhealthy food taxes

Boris Johnson has said he wants to examine whether levies on foods high in salt, fat and sugar are effective, and has vowed not to introduce any new ones until the review is complete.

The "sugar tax" on drinks came into force in April 2018, and a wider levy on all unhealthy foods is being considered to help tackle obesity.

Mr Johnson says he is concerned they unfairly target the less well-off.

But campaigners and an ex-Tory health minister have criticised his idea.

It comes as Cancer Research UK says millions are at risk of cancer due to their weight, and obesity now causes more cases of four common types than smoking.

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