Nor does a focus on individual responsibility take us far in understanding the health problems we face as a nation. A striking feature of smoking and obesity is their close link with people's socioeconomic position: the lower their status the more likely are people to be obese and to smoke. Suppose you were tempted to think that the poor are simply irresponsible. How would that explain why among people who work hard in stable jobs, those with less education are more likely to smoke?
In my review of health inequalities, Fair society, Healthy lives, we drew attention not only to the causes of ill-health but to the causes of the causes. Smoking, obesity and heavy drinking are causes of ill-health, but what are the causes of these behaviours?