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Burnham’s stand on smoking

By Gareth Iacobucci

Health Secretary Andy Burnham has defended the state's right to intervene on public health issues, during a speech in which he offered support for a preventive approach to improving public health.

Mr Burnham said protecting the health of children, and ensuring that one person's choices don't cause harm to others, fully justified Government intervention in lifestyle areas such as smoking, and banning sunbeds for under-18s.

The health secretary said he made ‘no apology' for taking ‘a hard line' on public health issues, particularly where children were concerned.

He said: ‘I see two overriding principles which should be used to justify state intervention: First, where by acting we can protect the health of children, and second, where one person's choices cause harm to others.'

‘Alongside these, government has an important role in removing the barriers which stop individuals from taking healthy choices, and create an environment to make those choices easier.

He said: ‘Tackling health inequalities is not simple, but there is no cause more worthy. The challenge now is to change behaviour and so we have to find a more positive approach.'

Andy Burnham