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George Tyndale: BLUNKETT HAS LOST HIS BOTTLE.

Byline: George Tyndale

BRITAIN has a massive drink problem. Coping with the damage it causes costs the NHS pounds 1.7 billion a year because one in every 26 hospital beds is occupied by someone with a drink-related illness.

Drink is linked to over a million cases of violent crime every year (that's half the total), fuels 360,000 incidents of domestic violence and runs up a bill of over pounds 7 billion in police and court costs.

Then there's the cost of policing streets filled with drunks and the bill that industry picks up for the 17 million days lost to hangovers.

Understandably Home Sec-retary David Blunkett has decided it's time to act. But what has he come up with?

An advertising campaign telling the young it's not 'cool' to drink and messages on bottles. This is likely to have the same impact as walking into a crowded winebar on a Friday night and trying to order a cup of tea. It's ridiculously inappropriate and only a simple-minded person would think of doing it. This country has fostered schemes costing billions of pounds to transform city centres into ever more attractive bingeing haunts. Within 12 months it will be introducing 24-hour opening hours.

Every TV soap shows life centred on pubs and booze; every newspaper and magazine celebrates the boozy antics of celebrities; boozers are heroes.

How can Mr Blunkett believe that putting a guidance limit on a bottle will achieve anything against this monstrous industrial and social tidalwave except to set targets that all self-respecting young bingers will have to surpass?

If he really wanted to put the stopper back into the bottle of drunkenness, he would have ensured that Gordon Brown put massive increases on booze duty in the Budget, instead of 1p on a pint, 4p on a bottle of wine and nothing at all on spirits.

He would be introducing legislation to turn back the tide of pub and bar openings across the nation. And those found face down in the street would not be facing on-the-spot fines -they'd be locked up for a month.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 21, 2004
Words:350
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