Theresa May’s outgoing government has been criticised after important public health proposals - such as eliminating smoking and tackling poor diet - were quietly slipped out.
Released just hours before a new prime minister is announced and without alerting the media, the long-awaited green paper outlines a range of measures to tackle preventable ill-health including:
- Pledging to end smoking by 2030
- Forcing tobacco firms to contribute towards helping smokers quit
- Extending the sugar tax to other fattening products such as milkshakes
- Banning the sale of energy drinks to under 16s
In one of her final acts as prime minister, Theresa May reportedly insisted on its publication against the wishes of her own Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Hancock and May became embroiled in an “extraordinary row” over the timing of the release, according to the Financial Times, with the health secretary wanting to wait until a new prime minister was in place.
But his delay tactics has again led to accusations that he is backtracking on the proposals to curry favour with Boris Johnson, the overwhelming favourite to become prime minister and vocal critic of so-called “sin taxes”.
Johnson consistently spoke out against sugar taxes during the Tory leadership campaign, arguing they symbolise “the creep of the nanny state”.
Health leaders, however, say tougher action on obesity and smoking could alleviate the pressure on the NHS, saving billions and reducing the number of diseases linked to poor lifestyle, such as cancer and diabetes.
Labour described the government’s green paper as “extremely disappointing”, while the Royal College of Nursing said the important policies had been “buried in the dying days of the current government”.
The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment when approached by ITV News.