A surprising winner of the pandemic might be a sugar tax in the UK.  Several articles in the British media suggest that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now convinced that being overweight was a decisive factor in the severity of the COVID-19 he suffered, and that led him to an intensive-care unit.

This observation linking excess weight with an aggravated condition of COVID-19 sufferers is now corroborated by a growing body of research. Before becoming prime minister, Boris Johnson, true to his libertarian instincts (or credentials), used to decry any particular form of obesity tax, and during his campaign, he vowed to roll back “sin” taxes.

The disease seems to have led him to change his mind. An expanded UK sugar tax now seems a given. Most likely, regulators will also start paying more attention to the asymmetry of information. In the UK (the country in Europe with the highest level of obesity), the government spends far less on “healthy-eating” campaigns than the junk food industry on ads (a few years ago: GBP 5.2 million versus 143 million).

As the connection between weight and COVID-19 becomes clearer, we should expect more policy measures to rein in obesity in many countries around the world.


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