Habits like smoking, drinking diet and lack of exercise are believed to account for 40% of all premature deaths, and have contributed to life expectancy falling in recent years.
However, the Social Market Foundation (SMF), a non-partisan think tank, says government action to address such public health issues has been inconsistent.
The Tobacco Control Plan that is meant to deliver a smoke free England by 2030 has been delayed, proposed restrictions on junk food advertising and ‘buy on get one free’ deals have been postponed, and alcohol taxes have fallen in real terms.
SMF research suggests policies like higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and junk food, stricter licensing regulations to limit places to buy such products and regulations on marketing like banning ads before a 9pm TV watershed could all help save lives and therefore wants more intervention from government. “Softer” approaches like educational and information campaigns are likely to have less of an impact it believes.
The Self Care Forum wants to see legislation supported by education. Clearly, public health measures such as the 2007 smoking ban make great strides in saving lives and in reducing health inequality. However, these measures are further strengthened by ongoing education and information campaigns to improve people’s understanding of how to take better care of themselves and their families to live healthier, happier lives.