This is the second of three papers exploring tobacco, alcohol, obesity and gambling policy. It explores the political opportunities and constraints around action on these issues, based on a review of polling evidence and interviews with policymakers involved in implementing major public health policies.
- Public opinion does not appear to be the main obstacle to interventionist public health policies:
- More people were in favour of than opposed to the vast majority of policies polled.
- Advertising restrictions and policies to benefit children are particularly popular.
- Taxes, especially new taxes, tend to be relatively unpopular – but public health taxes are seen more favourably than other forms of tax.
- Expert interviews suggest resistance from the media, industry and party colleagues is a bigger barrier than voter opposition.
- That means politicians seeking to take action on public health need to be prepared for a long-term project requiring political capital and stamina.
- There are at least two strategic approaches they might take:
- Building ‘scoreboard momentum’: carefully picking battles, proposing measures that are likely to pass and consolidating.
- ‘Two steps forward, one step back’: recognising almost anything proposed will meet resistance, take a maximalist approach fighting on multiple fronts, expecting to lose on some.