LECTURING the public not to smoke and drink no longer works, a Cumbria health chief has said.

Colin Cox, director of Cumbria County Council, said that putting pressure on people to change their lifestyles could do the reverse.

Mr Cox was updating Cumbria County Council’s health scrutiny committee meeting in Kendal.

He said: “If it was about telling people what to do, all our health problems would be sorted out by now. Everyone has known for many, many years about the dangers of smoking and what they should be eating. Telling people what to do, doesn’t work, it’s about empowering people and giving them the power they need to make the right decision.”

Health officials are working up far-reaching plans to tackle the county’s major health challenges over the next decade.

But committee member Phil Dew, from Kirkby Stephen said any push to “change behaviours” in people carried a danger of being “Orwellian”.

Cllr Dew said: “It’s a bit Clockwork Orange to be trying to manipulate people’s behaviour,”

He said some people stopped visiting GPs because they were “fed-up” of lectured about their lifestyles.

Mothers struggling to breastfeed - as encouraged by the NHS - could also leave some new mums feeling guilty about it. The “obsession” with diet and obesity could drive people towards eating disorders, Mr Dew told the meeting.

Ulverston councillor Mark Wilson said his concern was tackling the high number of drug deaths in Barrow and Furness, and cutting the numbers of people killed in road traffic collisions. “

Drugs are one of the largest causes of death and I have also heard that road traffic deaths have increased over the last year,” said Mr Wilson.

Mr Cox said a “huge amount of work was being done” in Barrow and Carlisle to support a wide range of people.

Mr Cox appeared at the committee to update councillors on the progress of the county’s new “health and wellbeing strategy” for 2019-29. He said the council is close to finalising the strategy, which will go out for a three public month consultation, before being unveiled in March. Cllr Vivienne Rees, who represents Ambleside and Grasmere, urged health officials to ensure the consultation reached the county’s offline community, but David Blacklock, from patient champions, Healthwatch Cumbria, warned no consultation could reach everyone.