We'll keep on 'meddling' in the name of public health

By on 04/04/2014 in Blog

Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, welcomes yesterday’s Government announcement on plain packaging for cigarettes and set his sights on another public health fight.

It's just nanny-statism.

Don't tell me what to do.

It won't work anyway…

Just some of the outbursts from opponents of good public health since Health Minister Jane Ellison announced that the Government looks set to press ahead with plain packaging for cigarettes.

In essence, the pro-tobacco lobby insists this is another case of do-gooders meddling instead of letting people make up their own minds.

It won't surprise you to hear that I wholeheartedly disagree with this assessment. I think we have much more good work to do if we are going to give our children the best possible start and maximise their chances of living long and healthy lives.

So I welcome yesterday's news on plain packaging, as should anyone who really cares about the health of future generations.

One of the next targets on the menu for me is the way food and drink companies cynically use addictive online games to target children – undermining efforts to counter the obesity epidemic.

Earlier this week Local Government Association (LGA) warned that these 'advergames' are used to plug products containing high levels of sugars, salts and fats to young children and a report commissioned by the Family and Parenting Institute two years ago suggested that children's brains process advergames in a different way from traditional adverts, on a 'subconscious, emotional' level.

Basically, children do not understand that the games are adverts that can change their behaviour.

Now the food companies insist they would never target children directly with advertising - perish the thought - but please forgive me if I sound a note of cynicism here.

As with cigarette packaging, the marketing people know exactly what they are doing with their attractive designs - they want to pull in the next generation of customers.

Well we have a responsibility to protect that next generation. Our children are not merely lines on a profit sheet for big businesses.

So the LGA is right to highlight this issue and the public health world will continue to fight this fight - just as we continue to fight for a ban on smoking in cars, minimum unit pricing for alcohol and many other changes that will improve the health of the nation.


Yes and it's working!

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