Decline in smoking and drinking among young

Jul 25, 2014

England's youth are half as likely to embrace vices than they were a decade ago

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

New figures suggest that young people in England are less than half as likely to smoke, drink or do drugs than their predecessors were ten years ago, the Daily Mail reports.

Between 2003 and 2013, regular smoking among 11- to 15-year-olds fell from nine per cent to three per cent, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Over the same period, the incidence of school pupils who said they had drunk alcohol in the past week fell from four in ten to one in ten, while the number who admitted they had tried illegal drugs has halved.

The figures are based on a survey of more than 5,000 pupils at 174 schools in England. The questionnaire attempted to take exaggeration and bragging into account by asking pupils if they had ever taken "Semeron" - a fake drug made up to give some indication of how honest respondents were.

While drug use among children has not moved much in the past few years, staying stable at six per cent, smoking is in decline. Responding to the news, Deborah Arnott of anti-smoking group Ash said smoking among 15-year-olds is now significantly below the government target of 12 per cent.

She said that government action in banning smoking in all enclosed public spaces, banning tobacco advertising and putting larger warnings on packs of cigarettes had contributed to the decline – but said more needs to be done.

But Arnott said that fears e-cigarette use, or 'vaping', would lead to an uptake of real cigarettes have not yet materialised, the BBC reported.

The Daily Mail, which generally opposes drug law liberalisation, says that the figures prove that the war on drugs is working. It quotes Kathy Gyngell, from the think-tank Centre for Policy Studies, who says: "The war on drugs is being won, thanks to ministers who have stuck to their guns. We are seeing the eclipse of the post-Woodstock, selfish, baby boom generation".

She added: "Young people are becoming more sober in every respect. They have seen what has happened and they know they can't behave like that".             

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