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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 00:08 GMT
'Get tough' call on public health
Men drinking and smoking
The government should intervene more with public health measures
Government ministers should shrug off media accusations that they are running a nanny state and introduce tougher public health measures, experts say.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said the time had come to consider a whole host of interventions in the UK after the introduction of a smoking ban.

Its proposes raising alcohol prices, restricting pub opening hours and better food labelling to fight obesity.

The government said it was taking steps to protect public health.

The report by the panel of experts, which include scientists, lawyers and philosophers, said there was a balance to be struck between individual freedom and wider public protection.

The government has a duty to look after the health of everyone and sometimes that means guiding or restricting our choices
Lord John Krebs, of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics

But they urged the government not to be afraid to act where there was evidence people were being put at risk by environmental factors.

It praised the action taken over the smoking bans, introduced across the UK countries in recent years, as an example of where the "greater good" outweighs an individual's right to make a personal choice.

The experts said the government and industry should not see such measures as tantamount to creating a nanny state.

Instead, public health interventions should be seen as a "stewardship" role where proportional intervention was only taken when other measures had failed.

The report called on ministers to reconsider the relaxation in pub opening hours and look into increasing the price of alcohol through taxation.

It also said industry should introduce the most effective food labelling methods once the Food Standards Agency review of the issue is completed.

Activity

And it called for town planners and architects to be trained to design buildings and public spaces that encourage physical activity.

There is also an argument for intervening where children with serious respiratory conditions are exposed to smoking at home, it added. But the report did stress that those measures should be determined by the courts.

Lord John Krebs, the chairman of the committee which produced the report, said: "People often reject the idea of a nanny state.

"But the government has a duty to look after the health of everyone and sometimes that means guiding or restricting our choices."

Lord Krebs said there had been a "huge cultural change over what is acceptable" with the introduction of the smoking bans and urged the government to "implement tougher measures".

MORE STEPS NEEDED?
Alcohol - Call to consider raising the price of alcohol and review the extension of pub opening hours
Obesity - Industry urged to introduce food labelling and town planners and architects should get training on 'healthy' design
Smoking - In extreme cases, councils may consider intervening where children with respiratory diseases are exposed to smoking at home

Dr Tim Crayford, of the Association of Directors of Public Health, agreed the climate was changing.

He said: "We need the government to provide more leadership."

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, added: "Their call to examine the impact of 24-hour licensing is particularly welcome as this is most likely to impact on the health of the nation in the long-term."

The government said it was taking steps to protect public health and defended its record on alcohol in particular.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "The government has introduced a comprehensive strategy to tackle the health and social affects of harmful drinking across the board."



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