THE LEX COLUMN: Sin taxes are here to stay
Shrewd businesses should keep up with shifts in consumer priorities, instead of campaigning against junk food taxes
Heavy guns are pounding both sides in the battle of the bulge. Would-be British prime minister Boris Johnson has attacked “sin taxes”. The ads of the UK’s biggest cancer charity show mocked-up cigarette packets labelled: “Obesity is a cause of cancer too”. Accusations of fat shaming followed. Food and drink businesses can expect no respite. Obesity rates are soaring. So is the cost of treating its consequences.
Critics of sugar taxes such as Johnson think they clobber the poor. The UK’s experience with fizzy drinks suggests otherwise. A tax introduced in 2018 raised less than half the forecast amount. Makers rejigged drinks, although not all were hits. Ribena, a blackcurrant beverage consumed or spilled by kids, already had a reputation for dying soft furnishings purple. Its reformulation was accused of tasting like drain cleaner.