So we now treat tobacco products like porn mags, covered by shutters in the shops, their bright, tempting wrappers kept apart from susceptible, magpie eyes by metal cabinets so forbidding and sanctimonious, they would move Oliver Cromwell to tears of joy.
While just a few paces down the same inner-city high street, another betting establishment arrives to tap into the market for false hope among the downtrodden. Colours as bright as you like, ads as in-your-face as could be and apologists falling over themselves to persuade us that this is in no way exploitative, merely a “leisure product” gallantly striving to be available wherever it is needed.
And how does this booming utopia pan out in real terms? Ask Tottenham MP David Lammy, whose constituency, he claims, now hosts 40 bookmakers and not a single bookshop. And who lays bare the blandishments of Gambling’s PR machine with a single observation:
“The industry deliberately targets areas of poverty and deprivation — how else do you explain why the deprived area of Newham in east London has over three times as many gambling establishments as wealthy Richmond in the south-west of the city?”
Thank goodness for tobacco’s great cover-up, then. Bad enough financial ruin without finding blood in your phlegm the day of the repossession hearing, eh?
If the Government doesn’t already have a Minister for Joined-Up Thinking, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come.