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expert reaction to NHS Digital’s Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People, England: 2016 report

NHS Digital has published a new report: ‘Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among young people in England – 2016’.


Dr John Holmes, Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, said:

“It is clear that there is much less drinking among schoolchildren now than there was 15 years ago.  This may lead to big improvements in young people’s health today and adult health in the future.

“However, the problem of youth drinking has not gone away.  Among those who do drink, there are worrying figures.  For example, 23% of 15-year-olds have been drunk in the last four weeks while, among 15-year-olds who had drunk alcohol in the last week, 17% drank above the adult drinking guidelines.  Therefore, while we should welcome a generally improved picture, we should not be complacent about the problems that remain.”


Prof. Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling, said:

“Today’s survey results show that smoking amongst teenagers in England has reached record low levels, with rates of regular smoking dropping to 7% in 15 year olds, less than half the rate they were a decade ago. At the same time, regular use of electronic cigarettes is almost entirely concentrated in teenagers who already smoke. Less than half a percent of young people who’ve never smoked are regular e-cigarette users. This survey provides further evidence that, at the population level, e-cigarettes are not the ‘gateway’ to smoking that some feared they would be.”


Prof. Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), said:

“The data on experimentation with drugs and alcohol provide some reasons for concern, but there is also some good news. Only 19% of the sample had ever tried a cigarette. This is important because over 60% of kids who try one cigarette become daily smokers, at least temporarily. The low rate of smoking experimentation provides a signal that prevalence of smoking will continue to go down.”




Declared interests

Prof. Hajek: “No conflicts of interest.”

No others received.

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