Celebrity booze culture came under fire from the Government yesterday as a Home Office minister gave the clearest signal yet that tax on alcohol will be raised to curb drinking problems among young people.
Hitting out at “drunken pop stars”, the Home Office, Meg Hillier said: “It’s not something that government or legislation or the police alone can solve; it’s much more of an attitude in society. There are role models repeatedly featured in newspapers and the media for having nights out, pictures of drunken pop stars – I think those individuals need to recognise their fame comes on the back of people of all ages buying their products and they have a young fan base. It’s not a very sensible approach.”
Amy Winehouse was reported to have been on a three-day drink and drugs “bender” before being admitted to hospital last week, while Lily Allen once said that her teenage years were a blur because of alcohol.
Ms Hillier said reducing the availability of cheap alcohol was among the measures being reviewed by the Government. The review is also looking at raising the duty on some alcoholic drinks which experts believe will hit young people harder because of their limited incomes. “I want to hear people’s views about alcohol pricing. We will publish that review in 2008 and it may lead to some changes,” she said.
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WTSA) said it was “too simplistic” to cite cheap alcohol as the cause of antisocial behaviour.
The debate was sparked by the killing of father-of-three Garry Newlove, who died of head injuries on Sunday after he confronted a gang outside his home last Friday. Three youths, two aged 15 and one aged 16, appeared in court charged with Mr Newlove’s murder. A fourth, Adam William Swellings, 18, from Crewe, was also charged with his murder yesterday.
After the hearings, the chief constable of Cheshire, Peter Fahy, called for tougher measures to curb drinking among young people, which, he said, had fuelled the violence.