Almost 500,000 people living in the UK are out of work due to the ‘consequences of health-harming products’, a new study demonstrates.

Latest research from a group of three health alliances has found that 459,000 Brits are unable to work because they smoke, eat too much junk food and drink too many units of alcohol.

New data shows that the economy loses around £31 billion per year due to this number of people being out of work.

Commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), the Obesity Health Alliance and the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), the study indicates that these three negative lifestyle factors are the ‘leading causes of ill health and early death’.

Approximately 289,000 adults are unemployed due to poor health caused by smoking, while 99,000 are out of work because of an alcohol-related illness, the study has reported.

In addition, the research has identified 70,000 people out of work because of a health condition triggered by being overweight or obese.

People who smoke, eat too much junk food and drink too much alcohol are at risk of developing cancer, the academics have revealed.

The report states: “The overall impact of this is that nearly half a million people aged 20 to 69 would be in employment if it were not for the consequences of tobacco, alcohol or their obesity.”

More than 33% of the 1.45 million unemployed Brits would be working if they did not smoke, drink or weigh too much, latest data has reported.

According to the figures, one million people are admitted to hospital because of weight-related complications, while 948,000 are hospitalised as a result of alcohol.

Additionally, 506,000 are admitted to hospital because of a tobacco-related illness, the data has revealed.

“The Government has failed to fully regulate these health-harming products in line with the damage they cause,” said the study.

Last month, the Prime Minister announced a new Government initiative which will stop children born after 2009 from smoking.

Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert at the University of Edinburgh and chair of the report steering group, said: “There is a clear role for Government in reducing the consumption of products which harm health and the economy and this fits with the Government’s own vision for improving public health.”

“However, in practice with the exception of tobacco, action has been slow and concentrated not on what businesses do to increase consumption but on what individuals can do to resist temptation.

“This balance needs to be reset and industry activity must be regulated to protect the health of the public.”

President of the British Medical Association and chair of the AHA, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: “Tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food are the three leading causes of preventable death and ill health in England and are key drivers of health inequalities.

“The results of these place huge pressure on our already stretched health services.

“We know that people want the opportunity to lead healthy lives and make healthy choices.

“But the current lack of legislation around these harmful products makes it difficult when industry invests millions of pounds into strategies to coerce us into consuming them.”

He added: “For too long, the government has prioritised industry profits over public health.

“If the government is serious about tackling preventable diseases, protecting people and the NHS, a comprehensive strategy addressing price, availability and promotion – developed without the interference of big industry – is urgently needed.”

Owen Jackson, director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “The UK has a proud history of leading the way in public health.

“From the Soft Drinks Industry Levy which has resulted in over 50 per cent of manufacturers reducing the sugar content of drinks, to the recently announced landmark plans to raise the age of sale of tobacco products, what is shown time and again is that sustained, bold political leadership on public health is supported by the public.”

He continued: “I hope this report helps us to set a clear narrative on prevention not just for this parliamentary term but for future parliaments too.”

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