Will We Drink Ourselves to Death in Five Years?
Last year each statistical Lithuanian citizen consumed 14.3 liters (almost 3.8 gallons) of pure alcohol, 2 liters (half a gallon) more than was consumed in the preceding year. According to this statistic in the European Union, Lithuania is only surpassed by Hungary. In terms of teenage female drinking, Lithuania is in second place behind the United Kingdom. In terms of teenage male drinking, Lithuania is in second place behind Estonia. According to foreign experts, the alcohol market in Lithuania is expected to grow 35.5 percent in the next few years.
Teens drinking more and more
Dr. Aurelijus Veryga, the president of the National Tobacco and Alcohol Coalition, says that the quantity of alcohol consumed per person has risen on account of children."Some groups of adults simply cannot physically consume more alcohol. The quanitities mentioned earlier are calculated by counting all 3.6 million citizens, including babies. And many Lithuanians who are counted in these figures have in fact emigrated. Because of that, the actual amount of alcohol consumed per capita is somewhat higher. Besides, bootleg alcohol wasn't counted in those figures," Veryga said.
In 2006 there was a survey that asked teens whether they had ever been drunk. In the 11 and younger age group, 33.9 percent of girls and 39.6 percent of boys answered "yes". According to Veryga, this proves that children in Lithuania try alcohol at a very young age.
Further statistics: 12-year-old girls (22.4 percent) and boys (23.3 percent), 13-year-old girls (20 percent) and boys (17.3 percent), 14-year-old girls (13.9 percent) and boys (12.2 percent), 15-year-old girls (6.6 percent) and boys (5.8 percent), and 16+ girls (1.2 percent) and boys (1.7 percent). As strange as it may seem, the statistics do not favor girls. The reason for that could however be that girls are more honest. The statistics also clearly show the effects of alcohol on children. The smaller they are, the less alcohol is needed to get them drunk.
A survey conducted in 2003 showed that only 2 percent of teens 15–16 years old had never tried alcohol.
"That teens are drinking more is also proved by cases of alcohol poisoning. In 2001 only 19 children 7–14 years of age had experienced the toxic effects of alcohol. By 2006, this figure had risen to 269. The same can be seen in the 15–17 age group; the figure grew from 37 to 250," Veryga said.
By the way, according to teen drinking Lithuania was in much better shape in 1998. Out of 29 countries, Lithuania was 24th in terms of girls and 17th in terms of boys. But by 2006, out of 37 countries only girls from the United Kingdom and boys from Estonia drank more than girls and boys in Lithuania. 22.13 percent of girls and 29.33 percent of boys reported being drunk two times or more.
Vodka - the queen of drinks
Teens tend to drink cider and beer, but older people, both men and women, are more apt to trade weaker drinks for vodka, which is both stronger and cheaper.
For example, about 50 percent of 15–17-year-old boys drink beer and about 15 percent drink cider. But in the 25–30 age group, the popularity of beer begins to drop and vodka and other strong drinks begin to become more popular. People who are 65 and older choose vodka much more often than any other alcoholic drink.
Girls 15–17 years of age more are more apt to drink cider or alcoholic cocktails. In the 18–24 age group, there is very little difference in the amount of wine, cider and beer consumed. Women 25–34 years old more often drink wine, but older women tend to drink stonger alcoholic drinks.
"The use of alcohol is rising every year, and the forecast made by the market research company Euromonitor International--that the alcohol market would grow 35.5 percent over the next five years--is proving to be correct. The company showed that market growth was caused by people earning more, favorable laws, and quickly growing retail sales," Veryga said. According to him, although people in more developed countries make more money, they buy less alcohol than we do because of the high cost.
"Since Soviet times our purchasing power in terms of alcohol has grown about 10 times. Earlier with a Soviet paycheck a person could buy 10 bottles of vodka; now that figure stands at almost 100. And in fact people buy more, especially since various incentives are offered: discounts or free mugs, glasses, or CDs. People often rationalize a purchace by telling themselves they are buying for the future, but in fact by always having alcohol at hand, people drink more," Veryga said.
He added that since 1995 the alcohol law has been changed 24 times, but not in the right way; the laws regulating the advertisement and sale of alcohol became more liberal. Only recently has this trend been reversed.
In Lithuania the amount of money spent every month on advertising alcohol is an amazing sum--about 10 million litas (2.896 million euros or 4.566 million dollars). A large part of the advertising, especially for cider and alcoholic cocktails, is focused on a young audience. About 75 percent of underaged youth say they have no problems getting alcohol.
Rich people drink more often
According to a survey performed last year by RAIT, 56 percent of Lithuanians first tried alcohol while they were still underaged: 37 percent said that they had first tried alcohol when 14–17, 7 percent reported that they had first tried alcohol when 10–13, and 4 percent said that they had first tried alcohol when they were younger than 10.
Men more often reported that they had first tried alcohol when in their teens. Women and older respondents (55–74) were more often introduced to alcohol after reaching the legal drinking age.
Other statistics: 50 percent drink alcohol one time per month or less, 19 percent drink several times a month, 10 percent drink a least once a week, and 8 percent drink 2–5 times a week.
Those respondents 18–24 years old most often reported that they drink one time a week. The people most often drinking 2–3 times a week were people who were making an average of 901 litas (261 euros or 411 dollars) or more per family member per week and inhabitants of cities. Twelve percent of the people who reported that they had tried alcohol stated that they no longer drink.