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Efforts to curb youth drinking 'ineffective'

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Efforts to curb youth drinking 'ineffective'
12:59 CET+01:00
A new report released on Monday has questioned the efficacy of the Swedish government's investment of about 900 million kronor ($135.81 million) over the last 10 years in reducing youth alcohol consumption.

In addition to financial contributions, the state has also implemented measures to strengthen local enforcement of alcohol laws, but a new investigation by the Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) suggests that it is uncertain whether these efforts have had an impact on youth drinking.

"The investment has to a certain extent yielded positive results. Children and young people were given priority and there is a better structure for preventative work. However, the government should, to a greater extent, direct subsidies and supervision toward measures resulting in reduced supply and demand of alcohol among young people," Auditor General Gudrun Antemar said in a statement.

Youth alcohol consumption has decreased in recent years. However, it is highly uncertain whether the decrease can be linked to the preventative efforts undertaken at the regional and local level through state aid, the agency pointed out.

"It is difficult to see the connection between alcohol prevention efforts and changes in alcohol consumption. It is also true that the authorities, municipalities and non-profit organisations have made use of state aid in a such a way that the effects would have been difficult to achieve and read," the organisation said in a statement.

"They invested money on measures which have no proven effects on alcohol consumption," it added.

The agency based its data on last year's survey "Students' drug habits" from the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Centralförbundet för alkohol- och narkotikaupplysning, CAN). According to the survey, alcohol consumption fallen overall, among both adults and children, during the past decade.

Girls aged 16 drank 2.9 litres of alcohol in 2000 and 2.1 litres in 2009. The corresponding amounts for boys were 4.6 litres and 3.2 litres. The percentage who do not drink at all has also increased from 33 percent to 48 percent among boys and 25 percent to 36 percent among girls from 2000 to 2009.

The agency also believes that county administrative boards should focus on fewer, larger and longer-term projects. The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) and county administrative boards should prioritise projects and methods that have proven effective.

They should also improve following up on the requirements imposed on municipalities and non-profit organizations as beneficiaries of state aid, the agency said.

The agency also alleged that the county administrative boards and the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsoinstitutet) have not been sufficiently active and transparent in their oversight roles.

The agency recommends that the county administrative boards increase their concentration in gradual steps on oversight in terms of how the municipal alcohol enforcement affects youth access to alcohol.

The state gives priority to children and young people in its alcohol policies. One of its goals is an alcohol-free upbringing. After 10 years, the state has focused in particular on alcohol prevention among municipalities, including state aid to prevention projects and investments to strengthen local government oversight.

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