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Commuters quizzed over lifestyle

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COMMUTERS using trains to and from Maidstone today were asked to take part in a health survey about the UK's "lifestyle timebomb".

Teams of survey staff working for the Department of Health approached passengers at Maidstone East rail station during the morning's rush hour.

They were quizzed on a range of 'lifestyle health' issues including obesity, smoking, physical activity and teenage pregnancy.

It was part of a Government consultation taking part at five stations across the South East ahead of a White Paper on public health this summer.

A spokesman for the Department of Health denied passengers using Maidstone were any more prone to unhealthy habits despite being the only town in Kent selected for the survey.

He said: "There are definitely a lot of health inequalities in Kent but Maidstone was not picked out for any particular reason. We just wanted a spread of opinion to help us to shape future policy."

The survey asked for opinions on smoking in public places, health warnings on alcoholic drinks and increasing exercise for children.

Passengers were also asked about banning junk food advertising on children's television and the provision of contraceptives for young people.

The survey is part of the Choosing Health? consultation, which is seeking to assess whether individuals or the government should be responsible for keeping people healthy.

Passengers were asked to fill in postcards that will be sent to the Secretary of State for Health, Dr John Reid, before the close of consultation on May 28.

Dr Mike Gill, regional director of public health for the south-east, Dr Mike Gill, said: "Our modern lifestyle is causing a number of major health problems and this consultation raises important issues that need to be urgently addressed.

"Obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, sexually transmitted infections are continuing to rise rapidly and 50 people will still die every day in our region due to smoking related illness.

"Unless we tackle these and other health problems now we will be sitting on a health timebomb for future generations."

The other four stations were Oxford, Reading in Berkshire, the Hampshire town of Fratton and Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

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