Smoking, drinking and drug use down in young, report says

School children smoking and drinking

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Smoking, drinking and drug use among secondary school pupils have more than halved over the past 10 years, figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre suggest (HSCIC).

Between 2003 and 2013, regular smoking fell from 9% to 3% of 11- to 15-year-olds. Regular alcohol drinking dropped from 25% to 9%.

The number of pupils who said they had taken illegal drugs also halved.

The HSCIC based its figures on a survey of more than 5,000 pupils in England.

Young people at 174 schools were questioned in the autumn term of 2013.

Health charity Ash said smoking in children had fallen to a record low.

Start Quote

We need to keep monitoring use of electronic cigarettes in young people”

End Quote Deborah Arnott ASH chief executive
Good behaviour

The results show that the rates of school pupils drinking, smoking and taking illegal drugs are continuing to decline.

Drug use among pupils has stayed stable at 6% for the last few years, but is still half the level it was in 2003.

In the 2003 survey, one in four school pupils said they had drunk alcohol in the past week. In 2013, the figure was one in 10.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash, said smoking levels among 15-year-olds were now well below the government target of 12%.

She said action taken by the government to ban tobacco advertising, put larger health warnings on packs and make all enclosed public places smoke-free had made a difference.

"But more needs to be done and plain standardised tobacco packs are the obvious next step," she said.

Unfounded fears

Fears that electronic cigarettes could become a gateway into smoking for young people have not materialised so far, she added.

Young person drinking alcohol

"We need to keep monitoring use in young people, and make sure advertising and promotion of electronic cigarettes doesn't glamorise their use."

The percentage of pupils who said they smoked at least one cigarette a week in 2003 fell by two-thirds, to 3% in 2013.

Also, over the past decade, the proportion of young people who said they had tried smoking halved from 42% in 2003 to 22% in 2013 - the lowest level since the survey began in 1982.

When pupils were asked what activities were acceptable at their age, they said using illegal drugs was the least acceptable.

Only one in 20 agreed it was acceptable to take cannabis once a week, whereas one in four said it was acceptable to drink alcohol once a week.

Kingsley Manning, chairman of the HSCIC, said the report provided encouraging evidence that fewer young people are regularly smoking, drinking or using drugs.

"Our report will be of great interest to services for young people, policy leaders and those working in public health."

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