Family doctors are to be told to get people back to work after a period of illness in a bid to end the "sick-note culture".

Family doctors are to be told to get people back to work after a period of illness in a bid to end the "sick-note culture".

Tomorrow's White Paper on public health will highlight the importance of work to physical and mental health and the role employment can play in encouraging recovery from illness. It will also signal what one source described as the "single biggest move in the world" to restrict smoking in public places.

It will fall short of a ban but will apply nationally, affecting a larger population than Ireland, where a ban is in place, or Scotland, where one has been agreed or other parts of the world such as Norway and certain states in America which have imposed bans. "It will make it significantly more difficult to have a cigarette. It won't be impossible, but you will have to go out of your way to have a fag," the source said.

Ministers are concerned that each year in Britain, 166 million days are taken as sick leave and long-term absences of more than 20 days make up a third of the total. The White Paper will make the point that a short period off sick may be necessary for common problems such as back pain, stress and depression, but long-term absence can make the problem worse.

A health department spokes-person said yesterday: "Going back to work can be an important step on the road to recovery for people who have been ill. We will be asking GPs to include returning to work in patients' treatment plans."

The role of employers in promoting healthy ways of living will occupy a key place in the report, the biggest effort in a generation to get the nation to change its habits. Smoke-free workplaces, tax breaks on bicycles and measures to reduce stress will be cited as ways in which employers can secure a happier and healthier workforce.

Ministers are determined to avoid charges of nanny-statism and instead help people to lead healthier lives by providing them with the information to make healthier choices.

But for children, who cannot make their own choices, they believe greater protection is necessary - hence the ban on junk food advertising.

Food companies are expected to be told to stop showing advertisements for junk food before 9pm when children are watching, or face an outright ban, and to introduce a "traffic-light" labelling system to identify foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Personal health advisers will be offered to people from deprived communities to help them change their diet, take more exercise or reduce their drinking following a health MT in which their weight, height and blood pressure would be measured and a personal health plan drawn up.

Measures to combat binge drinking, improve sexual health and reduce obesity will also be included in the cross-departmental White Paper, which has provoked fierce argument in Whitehall. But the Government looks certain to be heavily criticised by doctors and campaigners for failing to impose a ban on smoking in public places.

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