Teenagers shunning drugs for healthier lifestyle

Teenage girl smoking cannabis
Image caption Cannabis remains the most popular drug, but even its use is down

Teenagers in England are shunning drink and drugs for a cleaner lifestyle, say health officials.

A survey of 6,500 children aged between 11 and 15 showed the numbers taking drugs, smoking and drinking alcohol had all fallen over the past decade.

The NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre figures found 17% had tried drugs at least once in 2011, compared with 29% in 2001.

The team said youngsters appeared to be living increasingly healthy lifestyles.

The survey, which questions a selection of children at English secondary schools, is carried out every year to monitor reported use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

The latest poll, carried out between September and December last year, found the number of children at each age who said they had taken drugs in the preceding 12 months was down.

Among 15-year-olds, the number fell from 39% in 2001 to 23% in 2011.

Only 3% of 11-year-olds had taken drugs.

Clean-living lifestyle

Cannabis was the most commonly used drug, although its was also down.

The survey also found the proportion of 11-to-15-year-olds smoking was the lowest since the polling began in 1982, and the number of "regular" smokers had halved in the past decade.

Five per cent said they smoked at least one cigarette a week compared with 10% in 2001.

Just 25% said they had tried cigarettes at least once.

The proportion drinking alcohol at least once has dropped to under half - 45%, compared with 61% per cent in 2001.

Only 7% reported drinking regularly, down from 20% 10 years ago.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre, said: "The report shows that pupils appear to be leading an increasingly clean-living lifestyle and are less likely to take drugs as well as cigarettes and alcohol.

"All this material will be of immense interest to those who work with young people and aim to steer them towards a healthier way of life."

Siobhan McCann, of the charity Drinkaware, said: "While the decline in the number of children trying alcohol is good news, the report still shows there are 360,000 young people who reported drinking alcohol in the last week alone."

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