The coalition Government is planning “radical” action to curb teenage smoking, ban cheap alcohol and to encourage mothers to breastfeed at work, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said.
Mr Lansley, who is due to publish a public health white paper this week, confirmed that the Government was preparing a range of interventions intended to reduce health inequalities.
But he came under fire from the Tory right for attempting to “micro-manage” people’s lives.
Mr Lansley confirmed that the Government would be consulting on the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes, banning low cost alcohol sales and piloting the introduction of workplace breastfeeding areas by private employers.
Mr Lansley defended the Government’s approach, insisting that while it wanted to avoid over-regulation, sometimes it was appropriate for the state to intervene in people’s lives for the sake of their health.
“We are very keen to ensure that we don’t over-regulate, that we minimise regulation,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.
“We have tried a lot of things and we do need occasionally to intervene. But more than that we need to support people. Especially some of the poorest in our society need to have the greatest support because health inequalities are too wide. We need to deliver improvements in the health of the poorest in this country the fastest.”
Reports suggested supermarkets will be banned from selling wine, beer and spirits below a national minimum price, which would be determined by adding together VAT and the cost of duty on the product.
Licences could be removed from outlets that breach the rules, and ministers were also said to be considering reviewing the duty paid on beer with a view to hiking the rate for super-strength drinks – possibly as part of a forthcoming Police and Social Responsibility Bill.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert told Sky News Sunday Live the Government was looking at “toughening up” licensing laws, making it easier to close down problem premises and giving greater involvement to communities.