Smoking, drinking and drug use amongst pupils

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A new report estimates that around 300,000 pupils aged between 11 and 15 had taken drugs in the last year and around 90,000 pupils aged between 11 and 15 were regular smokers.

According to the Natcen report less than one in five 11 to 15 year olds (18%) said that they had smoked at least once last year and the prevalence of smoking increased with age.

Regular smoking was associated with other risky behaviours: drinking alcohol, taking drugs and truancy. The influence of family and friends was also important.

Among regular smokers, 46% had been smoking for at least a year. 56% had made an attempt to give up smoking but had not succeeded.

81% of pupils reported having either a family member or a friend who smoked. This was more likely for smokers (97% of regular smokers, 94% of occasional smokers) than non-smokers (46%).

As for drug use, 6% of 11 year olds said that they had tried drugs at least once, compared with 24% of 15 year olds.

As in previous years, pupils were more likely to have taken cannabis than any other drug. In 2014, 6.7% of pupils reported taking cannabis in the last year. 2.9% of pupils had inhaled glue, gas, aerosols or solvents in the last year. Very few pupils reported the use of other types of drug.

Pupils who had truanted or been excluded from school were more likely than other pupils to say that they took drugs once a month or more or that they had taken Class A drugs in the last year. However, among these vulnerable pupils, both frequent drug use and Class A drug use have declined considerably since 2003.

Pupils who drank alcohol were most likely to say that they usually did so at their own or someone else’s home or at parties with friends (56%, 43% and 46% respectively). They were usually with their parents (56%) or with friends of both sexes (52%). Younger pupils who did drink alcohol were most likely to drink at home with their parents. Older pupils still drank at home with their families but were more likely to drink elsewhere with friends.

Family context is an important influence on whether or not young people drink. 86% of pupils who did not live with anyone else who drank alcohol had never drunk it themselves. In comparison, 40% of pupils who lived with three or more people who drank had never drunk alcohol.

School Leadership Today
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