The Irish are the European Union's keenest purchasers of alcohol and tobacco, considering annual household spending, according to European Union statistical agency Eurostat.

Ireland's consumers devoted 6% of their spending on alcohol and tobacco in 2001 and 2000 - the latest available comparative statistics.

Second were the Finns, 5.5%, and Denmark third, 4.6%.

Lowest spenders were the Italians at 2.5%, with Austria second lowest at 2.8%.

Other results, in descending order, were Greece 4.5%, Sweden 4.3%, Britain 4.1%, Portugal 4%, Germany 3.9%, Belgium 3.8%, France 3.4%, Spain 3.3% and the Netherlands 3.2%.