Boris Johnson pledges to halt hikes on ‘sin taxes’

Boris Johnson has pledged to halt hikes on so-called sin taxes, which include levies on tobacco, alcohol and sugar.

The frontrunner in the race to become prime minister committed on Wednesday to review the effectiveness of such taxes and to ask whether they unfairly hit those on low incomes.

The Tory MP also vowed not to introduce new ones until the review has been completed, as he hailed Brexit as an opportunity to examine tax policy.

Mr Johnson's campaign cited taxes on products high in salt, fat and sugar as examples.

His team did not immediately respond to requests as to whether the review would also include cigarettes and alcohol taxation.

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Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
Retransmitted correcting byline to Yui Mok Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his office in Westminster, London.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his office in Westminster, London.
A blimp depicting Boris Johnson is launched in Parliament Square, London, ahead of a pro-European Union a march organised by March for Change.
A Pro EU demonstrator is seen wearing Conservative Party leadership contender Boris Johnson's face mask while holding a placard, during the �No to Boris. Yes to Europe� march in central London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A stilts-walker wearing a giant Nigel Farage's head pulling two puppets, the Conservative leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, during the �No to Boris. Yes to Europe� march in central London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson jumps down from a trailer during a visit to King & Co tree nursery, in Braintree, Essex, ahead of the Tory leadership hustings in Colchester, Essex.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson in a fork lift truck during a visit to King & Co tree nursery, in Braintree, Essex, ahead of the Tory leadership hustings in Colchester, Essex.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a Tory leadership hustings in London.
Supporters of Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson before a Tory leadership hustings in London.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar in London with Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar in London with Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar in London with Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to construction work for the expansion of Terminal Two at Manchester Airport.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to construction work for the expansion of Terminal Two at Manchester Airport.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to construction work for the expansion of Terminal Two at Manchester Airport.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson watches as a sheep is prepared for shearing during a visit to Nosterfield farm near Ripon in North Yorkshire, ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson holds up a string of sausages around his neck during a visit to Heck Foods Ltd. headquarters near Bedale in North Yorkshire ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson sits in a chair in a clothing shop during a visit to Guisborough, North Yorkshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson makes sausages during a visit to Heck Foods Ltd. headquarters near Bedale in North Yorkshire ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson during a Tory leadership hustings at Darlington Hippodrome.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson makes sausages during a visit to Heck Foods Ltd. headquarters near Bedale in North Yorkshire ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Guisborough, North Yorkshire.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arriving at a Tory leadership hustings in York.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a visit to Nosterfield farm near Ripon in North Yorkshire, ahead of the latest hustings in York later.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson poses for a selfie with a steelworker during a visit to Guisborough, North Yorkshire.
Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson looks through binoculars on the bridge of the Isle of Wight ferry as it sets sail from Portsmouth.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson poses for a photo at the Wight Shipyard Company at Venture Quay during a visit to the Isle of Wight.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arrives for a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson addresses party members at the Oaktree Arena in Highbridge, Somerset.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson thumbs up as he leaves an event after addressing party members at the Oaktree Arena in Highbridge, Somerset.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking during a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking during a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking in Exeter during a Tory leadership hustings.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson sits in a boat under construction at the Venture Quay boatyard during a visit to the Isle of Wight.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson arrives to speak at a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse.
Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson looks out from the bridge of the Isle of Wight ferry St Faith, as it sets sail from Portsmouth.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking at a campaign event in Wombourne in the West Midlands.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
Supporters during Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson's leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson's father Stanley Johnson (left) watching his son speak in Exeter during a Tory leadership hustings.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson at a campaign event in Wombourne in the West Midlands.
Campaigners from Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) flood Lord North Street in Westminster, London, where Boris Johnson's campaign headquarters is , with 2000 rubber ducks.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson with a supporter at a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking at a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria.
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson at a campaign event at the Lion Quays Hotel in Oswestry, Shropshire.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson has a drink in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (centre) and Dominic Rabb (right) talk to staff in the Surrey Hills Butchers in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (right) interacts with local business people in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (second left) weighs some produce in the Surrey Hills Butchers in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (right) interacts with local business people in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (right) interacts with local business people in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (left) and Dominic Rabb, in The Victoria public house in Oxshott, Surrey.
RETRANSMISSION adding name of Hayley Monckton. Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (centre) walks with David Alexander (left, Director of Estates at the RHS) and Hayley Monckton (front right, Director of Communications at the RHS) while touring the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson talks to a visitor as he tours the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson talks to visitors during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson (centre) gestures to visitors as his staff members walk up the steps, during a tour of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden at Wisley, in Surrey.
Boris Johnson pictured during a live phone in with LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, at their studios in central London. Picture date: Tuesday June 25, 2019. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
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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.

"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 October 31, 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."

England's chief medical officer has been considering taxing all unhealthy foods to tackle childhood obesity by discouraging parents from buying them.

Dame Sally Davies
Dame Sally Davies' report is due soon (Frantzesco Kangaris/PA)

Professor Dame Sally Davies said she wishes to incentivise healthy food sales, potentially subsidising them by charging more on unhealthy products.

A report by Dame Sally is due in September and was commissioned by a key ally of Mr Johnson's, Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The sugar tax on soft drinks was introduced in April last year, and has been celebrated by experts including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Deborah Arnott said any move away from current tobacco taxing would be a "grave error".

"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," she said.

"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."

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell stressed the significance of the taxes and praised their success in lowering smoking rates and removing sugar from diets.

"Taxes on less healthy products do have a positive effect," she said.

"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."

The Obesity Health Alliance's Caroline Cerny said voluntary programmes for the food industry to cut sugar "have not had the same success" as the tax.

"The levy is supported by the public and welcomed by a wide range of health experts and is vitally needed as part of a package of measures to help create a healthier environment for everyone," she said.

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