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Boris Johnson vows to freeze ‘sin taxes’ and launch review into whether they work

Tory leadership frontrunner says Brexit will provide ‘historic opportunity’ to reassess UK taxes

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 03 July 2019 06:24 BST
What is sugar tax?

Boris Johnson has vowed to put a stop to any rise in so-called “sin taxes”, which include levies on alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy foods.

The Tory leadership frontrunner said that as prime minister he would launch a review into whether the taxes work and how they impact low earners.

He promised to freeze all sin taxes at their current levels and not introduce any new ones until the review has concluded.

The former foreign secretary said leaving the EU would create a “historic opportunity” to evaluate taxes in the UK.

Last week Mr Johnson spoke out against proposals to extend the current “sugar tax” to include milkshakes.

The levy on sugary drinks was introduced last April, and was widely praised by doctors and health experts.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, is currently looking into whether it should be extended to other unhealthy food and drink products.

The review was commissioned by Matt Hancock, the health secretary and a prominent supporter of Mr Johnson.

Announcing his plan to freeze sin taxes Mr Johnson said: “The recent proposal for a tax on milkshakes seems to me to clobber those who can least afford it.

“If we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to walk, cycle and generally do more exercise.”

He added: “Rather than just taxing people more, we should look at how effective the so-called sin taxes really are, and if they actually change behaviour.

“Once we leave the EU on 31 October, we 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.”

But Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said reducing taxes on tobacco would be a ”grave error”.

She said: “Smoking kills more than 100,000 people in Britain each year. And the evidence from other countries is clear, when taxes stop going up, smoking rates are likely to stop going down.

“Making tobacco less affordable via taxation is considered to be the most effective means of discouraging young people from starting to smoke and helping adult smokers to quit.

“That’s why this government and its predecessors have implemented an escalator for tobacco taxes which increases prices above inflation at every Budget. To move away from that policy now would be a grave error.”

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