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Two thirds of Scots think Holyrood could do more to help improve health – poll

EMBARGOED TO 0001 WENESDAY JUNE 8 PICTURE POSED MY A MODEL: File photo dated 12/03/13 of a man smoking a cigarette. More must be done to help smokers in hospital kick the habit, a new review has concluded after it found that less than 1% of smokers manage to quit after a hospital stay. Issue date: Wednesday June 8, 2022.
EMBARGOED TO 0001 WENESDAY JUNE 8 PICTURE POSED MY A MODEL: File photo dated 12/03/13 of a man smoking a cigarette. More must be done to help smokers in hospital kick the habit, a new review has concluded after it found that less than 1% of smokers manage to quit after a hospital stay. Issue date: Wednesday June 8, 2022.

Two out of three adults north of the border think the Scottish Government should be doing more to improve public health, a poll has suggested.

The survey also revealed most Scots supported banning advertising of all tobacco and nicotine products, restrictions on alcohol advertising and introducing policies which ensure fruit and vegetables are cheaper to buy than unhealthy foods.

David McColgan, of the British Heart Foundation Scotland, warned that “for years the Scottish Government has prided itself as being a world leader in public health, but the sad reality is we are being overtaken by other countries”.

Teenagers drinking
Some 67% of Scots think Holyrood should be doing more to improve public health, a YouGov poll has suggested (David Jones/PA)

His organisation, which commissioned the YouGov poll of 1,000 adults alongside other health charities, has said by the end the parliamentary term in 2026 the number of obesity-related deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Scotland could increase by as much as 10%.

The coalition of leading charities behind the poll, which includes Obesity Action Scotland, Cancer Research Scotland and Alcohol Focus Scotland, said one in five of those deaths could be prevented through public health measures.

But Mr McColgan said “commitments to introduce new measures to improve public health have been repeatedly delayed and all the while the burden of disease is being felt by the most vulnerable in our communities”.

He added: “It is evident that the public believes the Scottish Government should be doing more and supports increased measures to tackle these issues.

“We have already waited too long and the Scottish Government must now sit up and listen and deliver a comprehensive public health Bill urgently.”

The group also warned recent trends suggested progress made in reducing alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions was stalling.

According to the survey 67% were in favour of setting a minimum and maximum price for tobacco, while 68% supported health warning labels on alcohol products.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, urged Holyrood to go further in their action.

“With health inequalities continuing to thrive in our most disadvantaged communities and contributing to Scotland’s poorest people dying early, the Scottish Government needs to be bolder and take more determined, targeted and measured action to challenge the normalisation of smoking, and reduce the consumption of health harming products that persists in our society,” said Ms Duffy.

Some 78% of those asked told pollsters they were in favour of banning advertising of all tobacco and nicotine products.

And 62% said they would welcome restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotions online, in public spaces and at sports and cultural events.

Laura Mahon, deputy chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the “public want to see change, and the devastating rise in deaths from alcohol in 2020 shows we cannot afford to wait”.

“To make a concrete difference to people’s health we need evidence-based solutions,” she said.

“Introducing restrictions on how and where alcohol can be marketed, alongside increasing the minimum unit price to at least 65p would save and improve lives, particularly for those living in our poorest communities who feel the negative effects most.”

On food the poll, which was conducted between March 10 and 14, found 81% of Scots were were in favour of introducing policies which ensure fruit and vegetables are cheaper to buy than unhealthy items.

Lorraine Tulloch, of Obesity Action Scotland, said: “We need bold action to tackle the constant advertising and promotion of foods high in fat, sugar and salt and to improve the out of home sector.”

The charities have said the burden of obesity, tobacco use and drink is higher in the poorest areas, with a 24-year gap in healthy life expectancy between Scotland’s most and least deprived communities.

A Scottish Government spokesman said that “improving health and reducing health inequalities across Scotland is a clear priority for this government”.

“We have already introduced world-leading legislation on Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol, and we will introduce a Bill in this Parliament that includes powers to restrict promotions of foods high in fat, sugar or salt,” the spokesman said.

“We are also consulting on mandatory calorie labelling as part of a wider range of actions to support people to make healthier choices when eating out or ordering in.

“We are refreshing our Tobacco Action Plan and we are identifying the most impactful actions to reduce smoking prevalence to 5% or less by 2034 and to tackle health inequalities.”