The Local Government Association has called for licensing laws to be updated to give councils the power to consider the public health implications when deciding whether to grant licences.
The move would help protect communities from harm, reduce NHS costs and save lives, the LGA said.
The proposed update would see public health added to the Licensing Act as one of the issues councils can consider when issuing licences. Currently, there are four issues councils can take into account: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; prevention of public nuisance; and protection of children from harm.
Adding a public health objective to the Licensing Act, the LGA said, would place a legal requirement on businesses to think about public health issues and give councils long term tools to act on public health risks.
Alongside updating the Licensing Act, the LGA has called for greater access to NHS data to be provided to local authorities - including hospital admissions and ambulance call-out details - to assist public health-related decision making.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “The last year has shown us the importance of businesses taking measures to protect public health, yet currently councils are specifically discouraged from using the Licensing Act to consider public health issues.
“Councils want to support businesses and enable them to be successful, but they also have a duty to protect their communities from infection and ill-health.
“New licensing powers to protect and improve public health would allow councils to fully take into account the social and health impacts on their local communities as well as help reduce NHS costs.
“Councils do not want powers to refuse every application. But being able to consider the public health impact of new licensed premises would allow them to take a more balanced view in line with their other priorities such as creating vibrant and safe town centres and protecting people from harm.”