People could die because of Thérèse Coffey’s “ultra-libertarian ideological” reluctance to crack down on smoking and obesity, a Conservative ex-health minister has warned.
The strongly worded criticism of the health secretary came from Dr Dan Poulter, a Tory MP and NHS doctor who served as a health minister in the coalition government from 2012 to 2015.
Poulter claims Coffey’s “hostility to what the extreme right call ‘nanny statism’” is stopping her from taking firm action against the “major killers” of tobacco and bad diet.
His intervention – in an opinion piece for the Guardian – was prompted by Coffey making clear that she opposed banning adults from smoking in cars containing children, even though the practice was outlawed in 2015 and is credited with reducing young people’s exposure to secondhand smoke.
The government’s widely anticipated scrapping of measures to curb obesity such as the sugar tax and ditching of the tobacco control plan and health inequalities white paper – both of which previous health ministers had promised to publish – have led Poulter to brand Coffey’s stance “deeply alarming”.
He writes: “More smoking and more obesity means more illness, more pressure on the NHS and shorter lives, particularly amongst the poorest in society.
“I am acutely concerned that the health secretary’s ideological hostility to what history shows is government’s potentially very positive role in protecting us against these grave threats to our health will exacerbate the problems they already pose.
“At its worst such a radically different approach to public health could cost lives, as it will inevitably lead to more people smoking and becoming dangerously overweight.”
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Source: The Guardian, 18 October 2022