Member of Parliament Boris Johnson has announced that he plans on halting England’s recently enacted sugar level if he’s elected leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has announced its opposition to his plans.
Specifically, Johnson has said he would launch a comprehensive review into the effectiveness of the “sin taxes” on products high in salt, fat, or sugar. He also has said he won’t increase any of these taxes or introduce any new ones until a review has been completed.
The RSPH notes that the Soft Drinks Industry Levy has proven effective in encouraging manufacturer reformulation, with revenues falling from £500 million a year when it was first announced to £275 million at the end of 2017 due to the reduced amounts of sugar used.
“The evidence shows that the sugar levy has worked. Nearly half of the soft drinks market has reduced the sugar in their products to avoid charges,” said Shirley Cramer, CBE, chief executive of RSPH.
There is overwhelming public support for reformulation, with nine in 10 people surveyed by Public Health England supporting the government to work with the food industry to reformulate products to make them healthier,” said Cramer.
“The statement from Mr. Johnson that ‘if we want people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles, we should encourage people to… generally do more exercise’ places the onus firmly on the individual. We know that you cannot outrun a bad diet, and that the food choices we make are largely responsible for this,” said Cramer.
“Besides, the sugar levy itself has also raised around 340 million since its launch to support sport and physical activity in schools. Who will meet this shortfall given that schools are already cash-strapped?” Cramer said.
“We should be building on the success of the sugar levy, not turning back the clock on the progress that has been made so far. The success of fiscal measures in supporting the public’s health has been demonstrated in other areas such as tobacco and alcohol taxation,” said Cramer.
“This is a short-sighted proposal, and we do hope that this decision hasn’t been influenced by sweet talking from the food industry. We would urge Boris Johnson to reconsider,” said Cramer.