UN: Celebrity junkies are bad influence

Letting celebrities get away with drug crimes is sending out the wrong message to impressionable young people, a United Nations report warned on Wednesday.

The UN drug control agency has for the first time highlighted the damaging influence drug-using celebrities—such as Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty and Kate Moss in Britain—have on fans.

Without specifically naming anyone, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said in its annual report that leniency by police and courts towards famous people undermines the criminal justice system.

“There should not be any difference between a celebrity who is breaking the law and non-celebrities,” said INCB member Professor Hamid Ghodse.

“Not only does it give the wrong messages to young people, who are often quite impressionable, but the wider public become cynical about the responses to drug offenders.”

The UN agency urged governments to pay more attention to high-profile drug abuse cases, saying the glamorisation of drug abuse is especially relevant for young people who are “often most vulnerable” to the cult of celebrity.

The warning comes amid recent highly publicised examples of British celebrities getting caught with drugs.

Musician Pete Doherty has avoided prison for drug offences on numerous occasions, while troubled soul singer Amy Winehouse was caught on tape smoking crack cocaine in January.

And in 2005, supermodel Kate Moss was filmed snorting cocaine, earning her the nickname “Cocaine Kate”. Moss not only escaped prosecution, but even saw her career boosted by the incident.

While not naming any names, Ghodse said: “A number of people have got a lenient response in the United Kingdom and around the world.”

Britain is one of the countries with the highest cocaine use in the European Union, along with Italy and Spain, the UN report says.

Home Office figures have shown that cocaine use in England and Wales rose from 2% to 2,4% in 2005/06 for 15- to 64-year-olds.—AFP


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