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

Lads drinking
Researchers: Elizabeth Fuller


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 findings are from 2012.

Trying smoking is at its lowest level since the mid-1990s

23% of pupils reported that they had tried smoking at least once - in 1996, nearly half (49%) had done so.

The prevalence of regular smoking has also declined

In 2012, 4% of pupils were defined as regular smokers (at least one cigarette a week), down from a high of 13% in 1996.

The number of pupils drinking alcohol has fallen

43% of pupils aged 11 to 15 said that they had had at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime - a decline from 61% in 2003. 10% reported drinking alcohol in the last week, a decrease from 25% in 2003.

There has been a decline in drug use

In 2012, 17% of pupils reported that they had ever taken drugs, down from 29% in 2001.

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug

Cannabis was the most widely used drug - 7.5% of pupils reported taking it in the last year. 3.6% reported sniffing glue, gas or other volatile substances in the last year, whilst other drugs had been taken by 1% of pupils or less in the last year.


We speak to young people in around 500 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.