Measures for health

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
August 27, 2010, 12:42 AM GMT+0

The majority of Brits would support bold governmental policies in an attempt to protect public health, according to research for the Faculty of Public Health (FPH). This comes after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley described a forthcoming white paper on the subject as a ‘bold new approach’.

Of the health policies proposed, harsh regulation on the labelling of alcoholic drinks was most strongly supported, with 82% feeling that ‘information about the numbers of calories and units of alcohol’ should be printed on ‘all bottles and cans’. The next most-supported measure was an equivalent set of regulations on food: 78% would support a ‘requirement to put “traffic light” labels on the front of food packages’ so people can ‘see at a glance’ the fat, sugar and salt content. Many supermarkets already operate similar systems but there is no universal requirement.

Smoking also came under fire: 74% wanted a ban from smoking ‘in a car in which any children are on board’, while 67% thought the banning of pre-9pm watershed advertisements for ‘junk foods’ like pizza, crisps, sweets and burgers was a good idea.

Other popular measures include introducing a ‘system of presumed consent’ for organ transplants, whereby people would be able to opt out, rather than the current system in which they opt in, of having their organs used after their death (60% support, 27% oppose). There was also support for the raising of the minimum age at which people can buy alcohol and tobacco from 18 to 21 (57% support, 35% oppose).

Ban 'buy-one-get-one-free'?

However, despite strong support for some measures relating to food, alcohol and tobacco, other such proposals were less popular: just under half (49%) would support a measure forcing all cafés and restaurants to publish fat, sugar, salt and calorie content on their menus, while only 45% would welcome the implementation of a minimum alcohol price for each unit of alcohol (compared to a very similar 44% who would oppose the measure). And only 41% would welcome the banning of ‘buy one get one free’-style offers on alcohol in supermarkets, compared to 51% who do not think this is necessary.

Perhaps Lansley should consider the public’s view, as when asked specifically which measures (up to three from a list of ten proposals) people thought were the most important, (as opposed to simply stating support or opposition) the top measure was ‘ban anyone from smoking in a car carrying children’ (37%), followed by ‘introduce an opt-out organ donation system’ (35%), followed by ‘raise the minimum age at which people can buy tobacco or alcohol’ (33%). The least popular measures included ‘require cafés and restaurants to publish nutritional information on their menus’ (7%) and ‘require makers of alcohol drinks to print nutritional information on all bottles and cans’ (13%).

It seems the public does not wish to see more food or drink labelling when out enjoying themselves, but would, however, welcome the labelling of products intended to be consumed at home, along with more stringent legislation regarding the health of young people in particular.

Survey details and full results