EUROPE: New figures on drinking and drug use amongst adolescents in Europe show that almost 90% of teenagers have had a drink in their lifetime.
The ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) 2007 study (published today) features 100,000 16-year-old students in 35 European countries.
Although 'alcohol consumption during the past 30 days' decreased slightly since the last study in 2003, there is a vast difference between countries.
According to the report: “Between the last two surveys (2003 and 2007) there was a clear decrease in the average proportion of students that had been drinking beer and/or wine during the past 30 days.
"In all ESPAD countries at least two thirds of the students have drunk alcohol at least once during their lifetime, with an ESPAD average close to 90% in the 2007 survey.
“Countries on the other end of the scale include Armenia (2%) and Cyprus (9%).”
On average 43% of the ESPAD students reported heavy episodic drinking during the past 30 days, and this was more common among boys (47%) than among girls (39%). Boys also dominated in a large majority of the countries.
European spirits trade body the European Spirits Organisation has urged all stakeholders to help attach the same stigma to underage drinking as drink driving. The organisation has also called for the strict enforcement of existing youth protection laws.
Jamie Fortescue, director general of the European Spirits rganisation, said:
“The European Spirits Organisation firmly condemns the sale of alcoholic beverages to the underage and calls for the strict enforcement of national youth protection laws.
“Across Europe, the spirits industry implements numerous information campaigns aimed at preventing alcohol misuse, and trains bar staff and retail personnel in observing the underage sales ban. Our world-renowned products are destined for occasional and responsible consumption by adults.”
Fortescue said that tackling underage drinking is the joint responsibility of all stakeholders, including governments, industry, schools, parents and civil society.
He added: “EU spirits producers are committed to play their part in such a partnership. For instance, strict law enforcement and large-scale information campaigns by government, industry and NGOs have largely stigmatised drink-driving. The vast majority of Europeans would discourage their friends from driving when they are drunk.
“We now have to achieve the same for underage drinking: Enforcing existing youth protection laws, while ensuring that teenagers do not perceive their peers’ irresponsible drinking behaviour as acceptable or cool. We take the ESPAD results seriously and will analyse them thoroughly.”
But Fortescue warned that there cannot be a blanket approach. He said: “However, there can be no “one-size-fits-all” approach for all of Europe. The diverging national figures released today by ESPAD only confirm this. As drinking patterns are closely linked to local cultures and traditions, they vary widely from country to country – and will therefore also need targeted and localised responses.”