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Survey of Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England

Lads drinking
Researchers: Elizabeth Fuller

Aim

Every year, we speak to around 6000 11-15 year olds to find out:

  • how many smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs and any patterns in these behaviours;
  • what they think about smoking, drinking and drug use;
  • and whether certain factors affect smoking, drinking or drug use.

Latest findings

Our latest report is from 2014.

Smoking 

  • 18% of 11 to 15 year olds said that they had smoked at least once. This was the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 1982.
  • 3% of pupils reported that they smoked at least one cigarette a week.
  • 22% of pupils had used e-cigarettes at least once. 
  • One 10% of pupils had used water pipe tobacco at least once.

Drinking  

  • In 2014, 38% of 11 to 15 year olds had tried alcohol at least once, the lowest proportion since the survey began.
  • 8% of pupils had drunk alcohol in the last week.

Drug use

  • 3% of pupils said that they had ever taken legal highs.
  • The prevalence of drug use among 11 to 15 year olds in England declined between 2001 and 2010. Since then the decline has slowed. In 2014, 15% of pupils had ever taken drugs, 10% had taken drugs in the last year, and 6% had taken drugs in the last month.

The estimates indicate that in England in 2014 around 90,000 pupils aged between 11 and 15 were regular smokers, around 240,000 had drunk alcohol in the past week, 180,000 had taken drugs in the last month, and 310,000 had taken drugs in the last year.

Watch a short animation about our findings. 

Methodology                              

We speak to young people in around 200 schools of all kinds, including state-maintained and independent schools. In each school, a sample of pupils is randomly selected from all classes in Years 7 to 11 and asked to complete a paper questionnaire. The survey is administered by NatCen interviewers in order to guarantee confidentiality to participants.

Read the latest report here