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The Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England – 2016, is the latest survey report in a series that began in 1982. The results from this annual survey are obtained from secondary school students in England in years 7 to 11, which in 2016 amounted to 12,051.

The data collected indicated that about one in five of the 11 to 15 year olds surveyed, which equates to 19%, said they had ever smoked. Half of these said that they had only tried smoking, whilst the remaining half was split between regular, occasional and ex-smokers. Similar figures were obtained from the 2014 survey, but the number of adolescents who said were regular smokers has gone down to approximately 3%.

Possible factors that led to this decrease in youth smoking rates

Alyssa Best, tobacco policy advisor at Cancer Research UK, said that despite the positive results the government needs to keep working to reduce the smoking rates further. “We urge the government to prioritize tobacco control so we can achieve the goal of a ‘smokefree generation‘,” she said.

“We urge the government to prioritize tobacco control so we can achieve the goal of a ‘smokefree generation’.” Alyssa Best, Tobacco Policy Advisor, Cancer Research UK

A number of factors are believed to have contributed to this decline in smoking rates. Amongst these are the increased taxes on tobacco, the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes and also the raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products.

“This continued decline in regular youth smoking has been made possible by effective tobacco control measures over the years, such as tax rises to make tobacco less affordable, and standard packs to make cigarettes less desirable,” said Best.

The correlation between the advent of e-cigs and the decrease in smokers

The percentage of students who reported having ever used e-cigarettes increased from 22% in 2014 to 25% in 2016, however levels of current and regular e-cigarette use remain low.
Another major contributor to this drop in smoking, is believed to be the advent of e-cigarettes. Contrary to the ‘Gateway Theory‘, the theory saying that vaping may act as a gateway to smoking, these figures along with those obtained from other major studies indicate that where endorsed, e-cigarettes are contributing to decreasing smoking rates.

In fact, the percentage of students who reported having ever used e-cigarettes increased from 22% in 2014 to 25% in 2016, however levels of current and regular e-cigarette use remain low and have seen only a slight increase of 6% from 4% and 2% from 1% respectively, since 2014.

The UK tobacco plan must be implemented

“This continued decline in regular youth smoking has been made possible by effective tobacco control measures over the years, such as tax rises to make tobacco less affordable, and standard packs to make cigarettes less desirable.” Alyssa Best, Tobacco Policy Advisor, Cancer Research UK

Chief executive of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Deborah Arnott said that the fact that experimentation with e-cigarettes remains low and is not leading to regular use is reassuring. Like Best, she also added that despite these promising figures, more needs to be done to minimize smoking rates further. “The Tobacco Control Plan must be fully implemented and adequately funded if we are to succeed in tackling the burning injustice that those born poor die on average nine years earlier.”

Read Further : Medical Press

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