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Health Policy

Holding us back: tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drink

Nov 2023
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A new report from ASH, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) and the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), outlines the scale of harm caused collectively by tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drinks, which are major causes of death and chronic disease.

Big businesses are currently profiting from ill-health caused by smoking, drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy foods, while the public pay the price in poor health, higher taxes and an under-performing economy.

The wage penalty, unemployment and economic inactivity caused by tobacco, alcohol and obesity costs the UK economy an eye-watering £31bn and has led to an estimated 459,000 people out of work.

Meanwhile each year, the industries which sell these products make an estimated £53bn of combined industry revenue from sales at levels harmful to health.

ASH, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) and the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) are calling on Government to put in place a comprehensive strategy to prevent ill-health from commercially driven risk factors, and redress the balance between industry influence and the public’s health.

For further context of this report, read Press Release: More needs to be done to tackle the unhealthy products driving nearly half a million people out of work (20 Nov 2023).

The productivity and consumption analyses for this report were conducted by Howard Reed, Director, Landman Economics and Senior Research Fellow, University of Northumbria.

'Estimating excess industry revenues from high-risk consumption in the tobacco, alcohol and food sectors' calculates the levels of health harming consumption in the economy.

'The impact of smoking, heavy drinking and obesity on employment prospects, earnings and productivity: analyses using UK data' calculates the economic impact of lost productivity due to ill health caused by these factors.