'Tax and regulate more to improve health'

A young boy drinks cola Image copyright Getty Images

The government should tax and regulate more to encourage people to be healthier, a group of experts says.

The independent analysis, produced for the BBC, said the success of the smoking ban and sugary drinks tax should embolden ministers.

The experts also said the fear of the "nanny state" tag was unfounded as polling suggested the public have an appetite for tough action.

It comes after ministers in England unveiled new plans for child obesity.

The proposals announced at the weekend included a crackdown on sweets and fatty snacks sold at checkouts and tighter restrictions on junk food ads on TV and online.

The experts behind the analysis - one of five produced to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS on 5 July - urged ministers to do more to tackle unhealthy lifestyles to help relieve the pressure on the NHS.

They pointed out that seven in 10 adults do not meet the recommended guidelines in relation to diet, physical activity, drinking and smoking.

But despite this, polling carried out for the report by Ipsos MORI found that 85% of people believe they have a "great deal of responsibility" for keeping healthy.

The survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK also showed a significant degree of support for taxes and regulation.

This included 54% who backed a minimum price for alcohol - something which has already been implemented in Scotland and is soon to be introduced in Wales.

And 70% supported limits on fast food outlets in areas near schools - a policy which some councils have introduced.

The report has been produced by four leading think tanks - the King's Fund, Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Report author Helen McKenna said the government should be "bolder".

"Although politicians may balk at the idea of the 'nanny state', our research suggests these types of intervention may enjoy stronger public support than they often assume."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said preventing ill-health was a "priority" for the government as shown by the record low smoking rates and the efforts on child obesity.

"There is a clear role for both the state and the individual to tackle lifestyle conditions," he added.

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