Swedes hit the bottle

The Lutheran spirit is alive and well in Sweden, if the papers' concern over the smoking and drinking of the weak-willed citizenry is anything to go by.

Unsurprisingly, most of the head shaking concerned the devil drink. Young adults, it seems, are drinking themselves into oblivion. Aftonbladet reported that “your average twenty-four year old lad is drinking alcohol equivalent to 72 bottles of spirit per year”.

“The typical alcoholic is no longer 43 and sitting on a park bench; he is 23 and studying at university,” said alcohol researcher Sven Andréasson.

Or he could be 18 and still at school, according to a straw poll in Tuesday’s Aftonbladet. A journalist from the paper dropped in on a class of eighteen year olds in the western Swedish town of Uddevalla, where all but two admitted to drinking at least occasionally, and most said that they had drunk in the past week.

Drinking habits were varied, although tastes were the same as teenagers everywhere: Baileys and cider named as the tipples of choice in Uddevalla although, as one girl claimed, “it’s really easy to get hold of home-made vodka.”

Aftonbladet thinks it knows where the blame lies: “Since Sweden joined the EU and alcohol policy was slackened, our drinking culture has changed.”

To make matters worse, Svenska Dagbladet carried worrying news about the damage that all this drinking is doing to some of us. Research carried out in Finland showed that about one third of the population is genetically predisposed to alcohol-related dementia. And the more they drank, the more likely they were to get dementia.

If talk of the negative effects of alcohol is putting you off your Pripps Blå, then Tuesday’s Svenska Dagsbladet gave drinkers a reason to raise a glass. The liberal Folkpartiet has come up with a novel way of dealing with Sweden’s perceived alcohol problems: make it cheaper. The party reckons that by reducing alcohol taxes and opening more Systembolaget outlets, particularly next to supermarkets, people will be discouraged from buying in bulk abroad and will buy moderately at home instead.

Even if Swedes show no signs of consuming less booze, women at least are making efforts to give up the peculiarly Swedish habit of snussing. Health reasons are not, however, the top reason for giving up. Expressen reports that the main reason to stop snussing is the discolouration that it causes to teeth. “This is permanent damage,” expert Maria Rankka told Expressen.

Perhaps anti-alcohol campaigners could learn a lesson: if you want people to give something up, appealing to their vanity never fails.