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RCP welcomes Public Health Bill, but warns more action needed on alcohol and obesity

Dr Alan Rees, RCP vice president for Wales, said:

Chronic ill-health costs the Welsh NHS many millions of pounds every year. Half of the adults in Wales are being treated for an illness such as high blood pressure, heart condition, arthritis, respiratory illness, mental illness or diabetes. Investing in the prevention of disease has to be a priority, which is why I welcome this Bill.

However, I’m disappointed to see that this legislation no longer includes a minimum unit price for alcohol, and I would urge the Welsh Government to publish their proposals for a separate Bill as soon as possible. Neither is there any firm action on tackling obesity and physical inactivity, which has a huge impact on health and chronic illness. The RCP has called for investment in clinically led severe and complex obesity services for patients across Wales, as well as maximum limits on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed to children and the exploration of taxes on unhealthy foods.

While we welcome proposals to improve the regulation of e-cigarettes, including a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to people aged under 18, we still believe that any ban on the use of e-cigarettes in public places must be evidence-based. Tobacco smoking accounts for approximately 5,450 deaths every year in Wales [i] and on the basis of available evidence, the RCP believes that e-cigarettes could lead to significant falls in smoking rates, prevent many deaths and episodes of serious illness. Further work is needed to show that these devices should be banned in public places.

As doctors, we see the devastating impact of smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse every single day, and we know that there is no easy fix. That’s why we’re calling on the Welsh Government to consider the health impact of all government policies in everything they do. We need to make sure that this Bill is ambitious and makes a real difference to the health of the people of Wales.


[i] Public Health Wales Observatory (2012). Tobacco and Health in Wales.

Notes to editors

  • The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) aims to improve patient care and reduce illness, in the UK and across the globe. We are patient centred and clinically led. Our 30,000 members worldwide, including 1100 in Wales, work in hospitals and the community across 30 different medical specialties, diagnosing and treating millions of patients with a huge range of medical conditions.