The King's Fund calls for stronger action on smoking and junk food advertising to children as government unveils white paper plan

The government's lack of nerve in committing to a full ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, its plans to extend alcohol licensing hours and its hesitancy to ban junk food advertising to children detracts from today's comprehensive plans to improve public health, says The King's Fund.

Delivering Choosing Health is the Department of Health's implementation plan for its November public health White Paper, Choosing Health - Making healthy choices easier. The King's Fund today publishes a briefing in response to the implementation plan.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'We welcome the scale and scope of the implementation plan and are pleased to see plans to tailor information and support to meet the needs of diverse communities and individuals. The focus on local needs and accountability, for example expectations of reports on public health initiatives to local councillors and local government, is a positive development.

'But partial bans on issues like smoking and drinking do not work. The government needs to take a stronger stand on ways to use regulation without fear of being accused of nanny statism. We need a full ban on smoking in enclosed public places and on the advertising of junk food to children, we need to reconsider drinking laws as there is evidence that making alcohol more readily available increases consumption - which can have a negative effect on health - and we hope that the government will introduce regulation if industry fails to take voluntary action on issues such as food labelling.

'The government also needs to recognise the challenge of reconciling its ideology of individual choice with its commitment to reducing health inequalities. Targeting disadvantaged individuals and neighbourhoods is welcome, but this deals with symptoms rather than causes. We need a radical agenda to address the socio-economic triggers of unhealthy behaviour.'

The King's Fund's briefing welcomes the White Paper's strong local dimension, its focus on partnerships between the NHS and local government, it's obesity strategy and ideas for children's health guides and personal health guides. It also outlines The King's Fund's views on the White Paper's shortcomings and weaknesses, such as lack of nerve on smoking, problems with reconciling choice and inequality and too little focus on black and minority ethnic health.

Notes to editors: 

1. For further information or interviews, please contact The King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2632, or 07774 218439.

2. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through grants. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.