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Public Health: RCN position statement

14 October 2012
The RCN agrees that we must support the population to make healthier choices. Disease prevention is underpinned by the principle that individuals should be empowered with accurate information to help them understand the impact that lifestyle has on their health. This document sets out the RCN's position regarding public health.

We have regarded tobacco as a special case because of the immediate health harm to the smoker and others around them with no additional health benefits. We would be entirely unwilling to engage with the tobacco industry and have encouraged tighter control of tobacco products to reduce the prevalence of smokers wherever possible.

For example, in an announcement to launch the RCN‟s membership of the Plain Packs Protect Campaign, Dr Peter Carter said:

“The RCN has consistently campaigned for initiatives to reduce the number of people who smoke. However, smoking remains the major cause of premature death and disease killing over 100,000 people each year. Crucially, we now need more robust ideas to stop young people smoking in the first place, such as clamping down on the use of tobacco packaging as advertising. This is why we support the campaign for plain standardised packaging.”

However, moderate alcohol consumption is generally considered to be a socially acceptable part of British culture. The RCN alcohol policy has been focussed on "alcohol misuse‟ and "excessive consumption‟ and to call for harm reduction and greater awareness, not the elimination of alcohol products.

For example, in a Guardian comment piece from 2010, Dr Peter Carter said:

“There needs to be a cultural shift towards safer drinking, especially among younger people, to help the NHS and to improve the health of the nation.”

If you have any comments or wish to contribute further, please email policy.international@rcn.org.uk