Cafe closure is a step in the right direction

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BLAISE TAPP: Even in the 21st century, you can't beat old-fashioned playtime

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We’ve now repeated several times our implacable opposition to the modern scourge of the ‘legal high’.

The inverted commas are needed, for as has been pointed out, calling them legal highs is a misnomer. Legality implies a certain safety, or approval – these substances just happen to be ‘not-yet-illegal’ highs, and many of them are genuinely dangerous.

They are dangerous not just to an individual’s health – as the contents are unregulated and frankly may contain chemicals that have no place anywhere near the human body – but they are often dangerous, or at least disruptive to the wider world, as the psychoactive ingredients can cause aggro among groups of teenagers tempted to try them.

That is what the police have recorded as a result of the Gypsy Kings cafe trading at the top of Commercial Road in Portsmouth, and that’s why they applied for a court order to close it down.

It’s not that we particularly want to see any company driven out of business, but we welcome this.

It’s only last week that we reported how a 19-year-old from Havant almost choked after buying an over-the-counter drug from the town’s branch of Gypsy Kings. At the time, the owner Peter Stanley said: ‘What I’m doing is completely legal. It’s down to the government to put legislation in place to stop it.’

It’s this frankly irresponsible attitude that means legal highs have stayed legal, as the manufacturers stay one step ahead of the law by tweaking the ingredients so that if a certain compound is banned, another one will pop up in its place.

But when bigger issues are at stake, then the profit motive needs to be abandoned, and it’s welcome news that Mr Stanley now says he may concentrate on other products, and even health foods.

The problem of legal highs – and make no mistake about it, it is a problem – will not be solved by court orders alone. Continued pressure on manufacturers, innovative legislation and education all have their place. But as a short sharp shock, bravo to the police and the courts for this.

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