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The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine, which in 2005 accounted for exactly half the alcohol purchased. Beer accounted for nearly one third. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the Swiss Germans who drink the most beer, but the Italian speakers.

The consumption of alcohol has dropped considerably since the 1980s, and has continued to decline, although only slightly, in the 21st century. But consumption is unevenly spread: 11% of the population consumes half the alcohol, while 23 % drink little or none. Men drink more, and more frequently, than women. Switzerland is reckoned among the countries with a high level of alcohol consumption.

In 2006 it was estimated that nearly 300,000 people in Switzerland are alcohol dependent. A study carried out in 2001 showed that alcohol was responsible for more than 10% of the deaths of males between 15 and 34. It indicated that alcohol kills a total of 2,100 people in Switzerland each year, two thirds of them men. A study carried out by the University of Neuchâtel put the cost to society of alcohol abuse at 6.7 billion francs per year.

Switzerland, like other European countries, is concerned by the phenomenon of youth drinking. However, although in 2006 a quarter of 15 year-old boys and a sixth of girls said they drank at least one alcoholic drink every week, the figure was considerably lower than in a similar survey conducted in 2002. It is still high given that wine, beer and cider cannot legally be sold to under-16s, and spirits cannot be sold to under-18s. However, the overwhelming majority of under-age drinkers say they have no problem in buying beer, and not much more difficulty in buying spirits.

Swiss teenagers' consumption of alcopops - classified as spirits – has fluctuated considerably: sales shot up between 2000 and 2001, from 1.7 million to 28 million bottles, and continued to rise in 2002. A hefty tax on alcopops was introduced in 2004, which drastically cut sales.

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