WHO experts call on Lithuania to raise alcohol excises and fight smoking among youth


The comments were made by representatives of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, holding a meeting in Vilnius this week.

“Over the last decade Europe has been reducing the consumption of alcohol by almost 2 percent annually. In Lithuania, it has been increasing in regularity,” Gauden Galea, director of the Division of Non-communicable Diseases and Life-course, told journalists on Monday.

Without identifying specific countries, he said that the largest alcohol consumption level recorded by the WHO is 17.7 liters of pure ethyl alcohol per adult person. In countries with wine consumption traditions, for example, Italy, the amount stands at 6-7 liters. Meanwhile, in Lithuania one adult consumes on average 15.4 liters of pure alcohol a year, which is more than in the major part of Europe.

“When you see that in relation to our estimates of premature deaths, years of live lost before the life expectancy, Lithuania globally is in the top of 20 percent,” Galea said.

The expert believes Lithuania should continue fight against illegal sale of alcohol to young people, stating that increasing alcohol excises is the key measure for making alcohol too expensive for young people.

Kristina Mauer-Stender, program manager for tobacco control at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said Europe is the leading continent in terms of the number of adult smokers. According to the 2014 figures, 28 percent, or almost 200 million, people in Europe smoked, with the number down by 50 million over the last 15 years. The good news for Lithuania is that the number of smokers here has dropped to 24 percent last year from 27 percent in 2012.

“The less good news is that still 24 proc. of Lithuanian males die as a result of tobacco-related diseases. This is a very very high number, if globally the number is 12 percent. Even worse news is that if we look at the younger generation (…). Once we see boys in the age group of 15 years old, 34 percent of them smoke at least once per week. It’s warning news for Lithuania,” the experts said.

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