The Guardian • Issue #2066


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2066

Gambling harm is profound. It is not just financial, it is also social. It impacts mental health, leads to other health issues, and too often it leads to suicide, argues a leading campaigner. The parallels between big tobacco and gambling are chilling, said Reverend Tim Costello AO. “They are both predatory industries – industries that knowingly sell harmful products. They invest massive sums to sell and market addictive products. Most disturbingly, both tobacco and gambling companies invest huge sums to develop new, addictive products, designed to get young people hooked,” he wrote in the online journal Pearls and Irritations. Costello argues that governments should treat gambling as a public health issue in the same way they do tobacco. “We successfully applied a public health approach, banned advertising, introduced plain-paper packaging, and funded research and public education. Eventually, the number of people smoking dramatically reduced and countless lives have been saved as a result,” he said. “When we look at gambling harm today and the virtually unlimited and unrestricted marketing of gambling, it is as if we have learnt nothing from history.” Gambling in Australia, he said, “is normalised and celebrated, which has led to the highest levels of gambling losses per capita in the world.” Costello said the federal government should establish a unit in Health and spearhead the development of a comprehensive national strategy for gambling that encompasses prevention, awareness and education, treatment and research.

British five-year-olds are getting shorter and experts attribute the trend to austerity policies that have impoverished lives. Previous studies had shown there was a slower increase in the average height of British five-year-olds after 1985. But recent research has shown that since the mid-2010s, things have got dramatically worse and the average height of five-year-olds has gone down. “The link between height, nutrition and social circumstances can already be seen in childhood. There is a neat gradient – the greater the deprivation, the shorter the child,” said Professor Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London. Marmot said “it is really bad to be poor in Britain” and that health inequalities have increased during years of austerity. Health among the poorest people is in a state of decline, he added. “Incomes of the poorest 10 per cent are way below those in other European countries. It means that people of low income cannot afford the basics of food, shelter and home heating. Both Conservatives and Labour in Britain put high priority on economic growth. I would rather see a reduction in health inequalities and growth in the height of five-year-old children. That way we will know that we have an economy that is really delivering for the health and wellbeing of all.”

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: Business groups have mobilised against the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act, which came into force in June. Employer groups have spent millions of dollars on a national advertising campaign against new IR laws that ensure labour hire workers are paid the same as employees doing the same job where they work.

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