Smoking rates in school children drop to record low

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February 2018

The smoking rate amongst 15-year-olds has reached its lowest level on record – 7 per cent – according to data published by NHS Digital.

The Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England report gathers anonymous data from 11 to 15-year-olds using a survey conducted by Ipsos Mori of 12,051 students from 177 schools across England.

The survey found that in 2016, only 7 per cent of 15-year-olds were regular cigarette smokers compared to 8 per cent at the time of the last survey in 2014.

This continues a longer-term decline seen since 2006, when 20 per cent of 15-year-olds were regular smokers.

Rates of child smoking experimentation remain almost static with 19 per cent of 11-15 year olds having smoked at least once – a slight rise from the 18 per cent recorded in 2014, but much lower than the 39 per cent in 2006.

A fifth (20 per cent) of regular smokers were committed to giving up, meaning that they had tried in the past and said that they would still like to.

However, 44 per cent were unconcerned about dependence on smoking, meaning they had never tried to give up and did not want to.

The proportion of pupils reporting exposure to secondhand smoke in a car fell from 34 per cent in 2014 to 26 per cent in 2016.

A quarter (25 per cent) of pupils reported they had ever used e-cigarettes – up from 22 per cent in 2014 – and although weekly e-cigarette usage remained low, it had increased from 1 per cent to 2 per cent since 2014.

Under England’s Tobacco Control Plan, the government has committed to reducing smoking prevalence among 15-year-olds to 3 per cent or lower by 2022.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) chief executive Deborah Arnott said: ‘This report shows that England continues to head in the right direction when it comes to youth smoking. However, we need to do more to get adult smokers to quit.’

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