Teens’ smoking, drinking, and drug taking at decade low in England

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 28 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4828
  1. Helen Mooney
  1. 1London

New figures show that the prevalence of smoking, drinking, and drug use among young people has halved in the past decade. The results of a survey of school pupils published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that from 2003 to 2013 the prevalence of regular smoking fell from 9% to 3% among 11 to 15 year olds. Regular alcohol drinking fell from 25% to 9%.1 The number of pupils who said they had taken illegal drugs also halved.

The centre’s figures came from a survey of more than 5000 pupils in 174 schools in England in the autumn term of 2013. Its report also provides an insight into the attitudes of young people and shows that illegal drug use was considered less acceptable than smoking and drinking alcohol. A quarter of respondents reported that “it was OK for someone their age to drink alcohol once a week,” whereas the proportion was one in eight for smoking cigarettes once a week and one in 20 for using cannabis once a week.

The antismoking charity ASH said that children’s prevalence of smoking had fallen to a record low. Its chief executive, Deborah Arnott, said that government action to ban tobacco advertising, put larger health warnings on cigarette packs, and make all enclosed public places smoke free had made a difference. But she called on the government to take further measures to reduce smoking prevalence.

“Plain standardised tobacco packs are the obvious next step,” she said. “Parliament and public back the policy; now the government must resist pressure from the tobacco industry and its front groups and make it happen. Every day’s delay means hundreds more children start smoking, taking the first step towards addiction and premature death.”

The Health and Social Care Information Centre’s chair, Kingsley Manning, said, “Today’s report provides encouraging evidence that fewer young people are regularly smoking, drinking, or using drugs and levels have halved compared with 10 years ago. It is certainly noteworthy that drug use has stayed stable in recent years.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4828


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