When communication matters – really matters – it has to be crystal clear on two levels: meaning and intent.
Recent legislation banning ‘Legal Highs’, Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 is so all-embracing that caffeine, alcohol and tobacco had to be specifically excluded.
In terms of policing, the Act is completely and utterly unworkable unless some dumbass starts selling the stuff on the streets in front of the local nick. So why on earth did Parliament pass a law that on the face of it looks impractical and stupid?
I don’t buy into the creed that maintains politicians are generally stupid. We elected them and it follows, neatly and logically that if they are, by default so are we.
I looked into the background behind this legislation. The substances concerned mimic the effects of dangerous and illegal drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy and speed, by being chemically altered at a molecular level to evade previous anti-drug laws. Because of a legal loophole they could be sold under the guise of something else, such as plant food or bath salts.
The problem is that none were tested for human consumption and reactions to them are unpredictable. Taken with alcohol or other substances the risk of deadly seizures, mental health issues, brain damage and heart problems is unlimited. They are implicated in at least 76 deaths according to the Office for National Statistics.
The intent and purpose of the Act is perfectly clear: to warn people that by taking these substances, the responsibility is theirs alone if they are damaged or die as a consequence.
What this law is, in fact, is a form of communication, dressed up as an Act of Parliament that means what it says. Its intent is to advise people who might be confused: avoid these substances because they are dangerous, have dodgy origins and can kill you.
Will it work? Depends on how dumb we are.