I went into town at the weekend to look for a new cycling jacket. Waiting for the bus home I was struck by something terrible in front of me – a backlit, high resolution display. It rotated through five advertisements:
Four of the five are advertising activities that the human brain is hardwired to become addicted to. It is difficult for humans to resist gambling and drinking alcohol. Such activities, as all, can be part of a healthy adult life, but to advertise them is to say to us all;
You’re not doing this enough.
Think again about doing more of this.
Is that ever actually true of drinking and gambling? Has anyone not interested in sapping all of your time and money ever said to you, “you’re not drinking and gambling enough”?
Who rides the bus? The elderly, the young, the poor and school children. Who walks through town? Just about everyone. We are creating and sustaining a social milieu in which, now that tobacco advertising is finally off the table, drinking and gambling are promoted as the de facto ways to spend our leisure time and discretionary income.
Children grow up indoctrinated by these advertisements, commanding their attention on TV at home, on the radio in the car and even while waiting for the bus in town. The people in them are so happy and the satisfaction offered is so palpable, but they are a forbidden fruit. Is it any wonder then, that they come to define adulthood?
By the time we reach 18 (and in reality, long before) we’re desperate for a swig and a flutter. To not go out every Friday and Saturday night and get smashed well into your twenties is abnormal.
The mandatory responsibility message at the bottom of the gambling advert is “When the fun stops, stop“, but the nature of gambling is that you may well not be mentally capable of stopping, long after any enjoyment has been replaced with one desperate, sickening all-in attempt after another to win back losses. Why has responsibility been relocated away from those with clear heads – the bookkeepers – to those under the influence – the gamblers?
Why does alcohol continue to be exempt from nutritional information listing calories, sugar content etc..? Is it not a foodstuff? Men don’t develop beer bellies because they ate too many pies, but because each pint has the calorific content of two slices of white bread.
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
And that fruit gin looks worth a try…