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Alcohol use varies across EU

28th March 2007

People's attitudes to alcohol vary widely across European countries, with binge-drinking apparently far less common in Mediterranean countries, a new survey has found.

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However, people across the European Union strongly support better information about the potential dangers of alcohol consumption.

Nearly 77% of respondents to the Eurobarometer survey said they would like to see warnings on containers and advertisements about the potential dangers of alcohol to pregnant women and drivers.

It also found that 10% of respondents in the 27 EU countries, as well as Croatia and the Turkish part of Cyprus, engaged in binge drinking, defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in a single sitting.

The practice was most common among 15-24 year-olds, 19% of whom reported doing it. Ireland came top of the binge-drinking list, with 34% reporting it, with Finland at 27%, the UK at 24% and Denmark at 23%.

The phenomenon seemed to be least common in Mediterranean countries, with Italy, Greece and Portugal reporting the lowest levels of binge-drinking at 2%, 2% and 4% respectively.

Taxation did not appear to be a promising way of limiting people's drinking. Almost two thirds (62%) of respondents overall said they would not buy less alcohol even if the price increased by 25%. But 44% of 15-24 year olds said they would reduce their intake if this happened.

Three out of four people said they favoured introducing a lower blood alcohol level for young and novice drivers of 0.2 g/l, and 80% said they believed that random breath tests by police would discourage motorists from drinking.

Drinking habits vary considerably throughout Europe. Most Portuguese (47%), for example, drink alcohol every day, but normally only a few drinks at one sitting, whereas 41% of Irish respondents drink alcohol only once a week but consume greater quantities.

The survey will inform an EU strategy to help national governments reduce alcohol related harm, focusing on protecting young people, reducing alcohol related accidents, gathering reliable statistics, and raising general awareness of the negative effects of alcohol.


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