Public health green paper finally comes to light

Proposals include a levy on the tobacco industry to pay for smoking cessation services and extending the sugar tax to sugary milk drinks.
25 July 2019 , Katie Coyne

Radical public health proposals to stamp out smoking by 2030 and tackling the obesity epidemic have finally been published.

There was wide speculation that the prevention green paper was delayed after Boris Johnson announced in his leadership election campaign that he didn’t support ‘sin taxes’. Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s was published at 7.22pm on Monday 22 July with no accompanying press release.

Proposals in the green paper include a levy on the tobacco industry to pay for smoking cessation services, banning energy drinks from being sold to under-16s, and extending the sugar tax to include sugary milk drinks.

The paper has also picked up on a recommendation made by the chief medical officer for England in last year’s annual report, for a composite health index. This will track the nation’s wellbeing, evaluate the impact of government policies and be considered alongside traditional markers such as GDP.

Improvements in nutritional labelling, lowering salt intake to 7g per day, were discussed in the paper. Other proposals included delivering Chapter 3 of the Government's Childhood obesity plan and pushing ahead with consultations from Chapter 2 on price promotions and a 9pm junk food advertising watershed.

Royal Society for Public Health chief executive Shirley Cramer was pleased to see that the proposals had been published as part of a Government-wide document as the society has argued that prevention of ill-health will only be successful if backed by all government departments.

Cramer added: “We are especially pleased to see plans to enforce an ultimatum for the tobacco industry to deliver a smoke-free nation by 2030. This is an ambition of admirable scale, and will require strong leadership from Government in demanding a ‘polluter pays’ levy from industry – as alluded to in the green paper.

“This funding should be used to ensure the vital but dwindling stop smoking services are available for all who need.

“At the same time we are wary that public health teams in councils nationwide have had their budgets slashed year on year by central government. Local authority workers have proven time and again that they can deliver excellent frontline prevention services, but the persistent cuts to their budget need reversing urgently if they are to continue to do so. We urge the Government to address this at the forthcoming Spending Review.”

The Faculty of Public Health (FPH), the professional body for public health practitioners, said it was important the Government recognised cuts to public health grants and council budgets must be reversed to achieve the ambitions set out in the green paper. It argued, “is vital that local delivery systems receive the £1 billion per annum increase in funding they need to deliver effective prevention”.

FPH president Maggie Rae added: “FPH and our members welcome the Government’s ambition to place prevention at the heart of the health agenda, as outlined in today’s prevention green paper.

“We also recognise that for the local system to deliver effective prevention further funding is necessary. Preventing ill-health leads to the best results for individuals and for society and we look forward to working with the Government and our members to deliver the programme of work outlined in the paper.”

*The consultation closes at 11.59pm on 14 October 2019 

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