Smoking ban tops greatest public health achievements of 21st century: poll

The smoking ban has topped the list of the UK’s greatest public health achievements of the 21st century, sector leaders have announced.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) released an end of year list on Monday revealing the top 20 UK public health achievements so far in the 21st century, as voted for by public health experts.

The smoking ban topped the table with a “landslide victory” in the vote, followed by the soft drinks industry levy – known as the sugar tax – while the Marmot review into health inequalities was in third place.

Following the Health Act 2006, the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces and workplaces was introduced in the UK and came into full force across all four nations by July 2007.

The RSPH said the ban has had a “profound impact” not just in reducing harm from passive smoking but also in driving the de-normalisation of smoking in public.

The 'sugar tax' also rated highly (PA)
The ‘sugar tax’ also rated highly (PA)

Introduced in April 2018 as part of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, the sugar levy is a tax on soft drinks based on the sugar content of the products.

The RSPH said that the Marmot Review, published in 2010, had made a “strongly evidenced case” that health inequalities had social determinants and that health and wellbeing were just as important measures for society as economic growth.

Although not as well known as other entries to the top 20, the Marmot Review “marked a real agenda shift” for those working in public health, it added.

The top 20 was first voted upon by a sample of the RSPH’s 6,500-strong membership and then through an expert panel of 33 senior public health professionals.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said: “As we head into the 2020s, this festive period we wanted to look back and celebrate the major public health achievements of the first 20 years of the century.

“We spend so much time discussing what needs to be done – and rightly so – but sometimes it is also important to reflect on how far we have come.

“This ranking really shines a light on the fantastic and inspiring progress that has been made through public health in the last two decades, and unambiguously makes the case that prevention is better than the cure.”

The list in full is:

1. The smoking ban
2. The soft drinks industry levy (sugar tax)
3. Marmot review into health inequalities and understanding of the social determinants of health
4. Sure Start children’s centres (2000-2010)
5. Minimum Unit Pricing on alcohol in Scotland
6. HPV vaccination for boys and girls
7. Congestion charge and ultra-low emission zone
8. Decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland
9. Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales
10. Tobacco advertising bans
11. Traffic light labelling on pre-packaged food
12. Transferal of public health into local authorities
13. Scores on the doors food hygiene ratings
14. MIND’s Time to Change campaign
15. Fixed-odds betting terminals stake limit reduced to £2
16. Introduction of childhood flu vaccine
17. Reduction in homelessness between 2003 and 2009
18. Junk food advertising ban during children’s TV and across London transport network
19. Drug safety testing at festivals and nightclubs
20. Cancer screening improvements

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