Many public policies are designed to counteract commonly made decisions that result in poor health. These policies have primarily been informed by the behavioural economics of decision making. Underappreciated in this conversation has been the perspective from neuroscience, despite its recent success – and the likelihood of future progress – in advancing our understanding of the neural basis for health-related decisions. Using tobacco control as an example, we provide a concise overview of how public health policies can and should be informed by neuroscience. We propose that such input can improve policies by increasing their effectiveness, improving screening efficiency and informing relevant ethical considerations. Finally, we recognise limitations and highlight roles that key stakeholders can play in incorporating neuroscientific evidence for the benefit of public policy.