Swedish girls drink and smoke more

A sober affair for the boys but a surge in spirits for the girls; the drinking habits of Sweden’s teenagers have been revealed in a new study which also claims computer games are keeping the country’s youth clear-headed.

For the first time ever in Sweden, 15 year old girls are consuming as much alcohol as their male counterparts, whose drinking habits have taken a dive in the past year.

Over 5,000 school children in 300 selected 9th grade classes throughout the country took part in the annual study on drug habits conducted by the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and other Drugs (CAN).

The report published on Tuesday states that the average 15 year old girl in Sweden knocks back a weekly alcohol dose of four and a half bottles of alcopops or 2.5 litres of beer or cider. Their yearly liquid diet of 3.2 litres of spirits, double the amount from 1989 figures, sees their average alcohol consumption rise on par with the boys.

“Historically speaking – and in all countries – it is boys and men who drink more than girls and women. We would really like to know why girls are drinking more,” said Björn Hibell, director of CAN.

“One shouldn’t see it as a general trend among all girls,” Hibell added. It seems to be a small group of that drink a large amount of alcohol.”

Aside from alcohol, the report found nearly twice as many smokers among girls than boys. Nine percent of girls are daily addicts compared to 4 per cent of boys, although figures for both sexes have reduced in the last year.

Meanwhile the numbers of those stating they have used drugs has decreased threefold since the 1990s and has now stabilised to around 7 per cent for both sexes.

According to Hibell, effective parental control and a rise in health awareness can be credited for the dramatic drop in drug use. But speaking in SvD, the government’s drug investigator Björn Fries calls attention to improved efforts and the introduction of trained drug co-ordinators throughout the country.

“It is at the local level one must provide knowledge about the situation and collaborate with schools and the social services. It is very important not to put an end to community ventures which is what happened in the nineties.”

Another explanation of the stabling statistics is the habit of playing computer games, a lesser of two evils according to CAN’s Björn Hibell.

“Many of them have access to the internet where they play games and therefore have less time and opportunity to use drugs and alcohol,” Hibell told Swedish Radio on Tuesday. “They have to be sober otherwise they can’t play well,” he added.

Meanwhile police in the Frölunda area of Gothenburg say they will continue to target the problem of alcohol pushers. According to Wednesday’s Göteborgs Posten the police have spent the last two years chasing illegal traders selling their wares to impressionable teenagers.

Over the first 18-month period a fruitful crackdown on such dealings led to 26 apprehensions. But the police have now come to a standstill with no further detentions in the last six months.

Culprits have been found with stashes of cheap spirits and beer, mainly from Germany. According to Lennart Ronnebro, local police chief in Frölunda, the exchange of goods is a smooth and sophisticated affair.

Youths have access to various mobile numbers they ring on demand. On deciding a meeting place, a car comes and takes their order and a second meeting is arranged for delivery and payment.

This week sees the end of the school year in the west of Sweden and a high police presence is expected after trouble last year saw many cases of assaults and vandalism by drunken youths.