New smoking figures from NHS Digital show that the number of young people trying cigarettes has dropped and are at the lowest rate recorded in the survey.

According to the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People 2018 report, the number of pupils that reported having ever smoked dropped from 19% in 2016, to 16% marking a continuing decline from 49% in 1996.

The results come a month after the Government said was committed to delivering a smoke-free generation by 2030 defined as a prevalence below 5% across society. 

Young people who drink and smoke have low levels of happiness

The report also showed that 51% of young people aged 11 to 15 who had recently drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes and taken drugs experienced low levels of happiness. This is compared to 36% who had recently done just one of these things, and 22% who hadn’t recently smoked, drank or taken drugs.

In 2018, 17% of pupils said that they usually drank alcohol at least once a month with 6% saying they drank at least once a week.

Other statistics included in the report revealed:

  • Pupils from more affluent families were more likely to have drunk alcohol in the last week: 13% of pupils from the most affluent families compared to 7% from the least affluent families
  • Just under half (47%) of 15-year-olds thought it was okay to drink alcohol once a week, while 19% thought it was okay to get drunk once a week.
  • The proportion of current smokers (5% of all pupils were current smokers), who said they managed to buy cigarettes from shops fell from 46% in 2014 to 23% in 2018
  • A quarter of pupils (25%) reported they had ever used e-cigarettes, the same as in 2016. Regular e-cigarette use was 6% in 2018
  • 24% admitted to having ever taken drugs, the same as the previous survey in 2016. This ranged from 38% of all 15-year-olds to 9% of 11-year-olds. Data prior to 2016 is not comparable due to a change in methodology.
  • In the past year 8% of pupils had taken cannabis, while 3% admitted to taking a Class A drug and 1% said they had taken a new psychoactive substance (previously known as legal highs).
  • 13% of children thought it was okay to try cannabis to see what it was like. This increased to 30% among 15-year olds.