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UNICEF reports increasing alcohol consumption and availability of drugs among young Ukrainians

© UNICEF Ukraine/2005/G.Pirozzi
UNICEF reports 63% of young people in Ukraine have smoked and 91%

Kyiv, 15 April 2009 – Today, UNICEF launches a report ‘European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs’ (ESPAD) revealing that alcohol consumption and availability of drugs among Ukrainian school-aged children is increasing annually. According to the report, 63 per cent of girls and boys aged 15-16 have smoked, 91 per cent use alcohol, and 14 per cent have used drugs such as cannabis or hashish. Only some 22 per cent of adolescents have correct knowledge about ways of HIV transmission. 

“Substance use exposes young people to risky behaviours and increases the risk of HIV infection”, says Jeremy Hartley, UNICEF Representative “This survey shows an urgent need to develop and implement a national strategy on HIV prevention and promotion of responsible healthy behaviour among young people in Ukraine”.

The Survey conducted by the Ukrainian Institute of Social Research provides useful information for all those concerned with the health of the young generation in Ukraine including decision makers, parents, service providers, young people themselves, non-governmental organisations and the mass media.

Cigarette smoking. According to the survey, some 23 per cent of boys and 12 per cent of girls are every day smokers. Before age of 13, some 38 per cent (48-boys and 27-girls) of young people have tried smoking. One of the major reasons of such wide-spread smoking is the availability of cigarettes: only 5-10 per cent of adolescent smokers and 20-25 per cent of adolescent non-smokers say that they might have difficulty in purchasing cigarettes.
However, the data indicates a positive trend: between 1995 till 2007 share of boy smokers has decreased from 50 per cent to 39 per cent, though among girl smokers this figure is smaller – decreasing from 28 per cent to 25 per cent. Still, some 12 per cent of boys and 5 per cent of girls started smoking on a daily basis before 13 years old.

Alcohol use. In comparison to the results of previous studies, there is a gradual increase in alcohol consumption among 15-16 year olds. During last 12 months some 84 per cent of young people drank alcohol, and during the last 30 days – some 62 per cent.

The most common alcoholic drink consumed is beer. Low-alcoholic drinks are more popular then in 2003 with the share of adolescents who consume such drinks having risen from 14 per cent to 22 per cent. 
Alcohol drinks are easy to obtain for 90 per cent of young people. Some 45 per cent mentioned that their consumption of alcohol has resulted in problems such as injuries or accidents, hospitalization, problems in their relationships with parents or friends as well as unsafe sex.

Illicit drug use. Still the most common drug used is cannabis or hashish: some 14 per cent of school-aged children have used cannabis at least once; some 4 per cent of those surveyed have used tranquillizers or sedatives; and some 3 per cent have inhaled drugs.

According to the survey data, in Ukraine the availability of inhaling drugs (chemical substances that are inhaled or sniffed) is increasing dramatically: the share of those who consider them easy to obtain has risen from 8 per cent in 1995 to 28 per cent of adolescents of both sexes in 2007.   

It is notable that some 34 per cent of boys and 23 per cent of girls had the opportunity to try cannabis or hashish but did not do so.

The survey shows that the most common places for purchasing cannabis or hashish are bars or discos, followed by on the street, at dealer’s home, and least often in schools.
Only some 17 per cent of those who have tried drugs actually bought them, whereas the rest got them from friends or strangers.

Sexual behaviour and awareness of HIV transmission. Some 21 per cent of boys and 11 per cent of girls reported that they had sexual intercourse during the last 12 months.

Some 25 per cent of young people did not use a condom during their first sexual intercourse. At the same time more girls reported having unsafe first sex (some 40 per cent). Boys, however, had more sexual partners during last 12 months than girls.

About ESPAD survey: The fourth round of the sociological survey (previous rounds were conduct in 1995, 1999 and 2003 in Ukraine) in the framework of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) covered 5,122 pupils (2,354 boys and 2,768 girls) aged 15-16 in both city and village schools, vocational schools and universities.

In the framework of this international project covering 35 countries, the study in Ukraine was conducted by the Ukrainian Institute of Social Research and supported by UNICEF. Compared with the other 34 surveyed countries, Ukraine does not rank first for any of the indicators. The level of alcohol consumption among Ukrainian young people is similar to that of other countries (the average is 85 per cent). The prevalence of drug use in Ukraine is lower than average for all countries who participated in the survey. Those young Ukrainians who smoke cigarettes during the last 30 days is 31 per cent, a little higher than the average (29 per cent). 

The sociological survey European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs in Ukraine was supported by the following organizations: Ministry of Family, Youth and Sport, State Social Service for Family, Children and Youth, Ukrainian Medical and Monitoring Centre on Alcohol and Drugs of the Ministry of Health.

About UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. UNICEF opened its office in Kyiv in 1997. More information about UNICEF activities in Ukraine:

For more information, please contact:
Veronika Vashchenko, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ukraine
Tel: 380 44 254 24 50, Mob: 380 67 927 60 38,

Anna Sukhodolska, Communication Assistant, UNICEF Ukraine
Tel: 380 44 254 24 50,



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