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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England - 2008

National statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Regions, Country, Government Office Regions
Date Range:
01 Jan 2008 to 31 Dec 2008


Note 14/01/10:

Please note that Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2008, originally published on 23rd July 2009, has been slightly amended on 14th January 2010 in order to correct an error in the data for the year 1994 in Table 3.1.

The correct figures (and old figures) for 1994 are:

  • Boys 62 per cent (66 per cent)
  • Girls 60 per cent (65 per cent)
  • Total 61 per cent (65 per cent).

The bases have also changed slightly, to 1,508 (from 1,509), 1,510 (from 1,511) and 3,018 (from 3,020) respectively.

More recent figures are unaffected. The hard copy of the report that is in circulation has always contained the correct data.

The NHS Information Centre apologises for any inconvenience caused.


This report contains results from an annual survey of secondary school pupils in years 7 to 11 (mostly aged 11 to 15). 7,798 pupils in 264 schools in England completed questionnaires in the autumn term of 2008.

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) carried out the survey on behalf of The NHS Information Centre for health and social care and Home Office; The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) also has an interest in the statistics. This is the most recent survey in a series that began in 1982. Each survey since 1998 has included a core set of questions on smoking, drinking and drug use and, since 2000, the remainder of the questions have focused in alternate years on smoking and drinking or on drug taking. The emphasis of the 2008 survey is on smoking and drinking.

The survey report presents information on the percentage of pupils who have ever smoked, tried alcohol or taken drugs. The report explores the attitudes and beliefs of school children towards smoking and drinking and where children obtain cigarettes and alcohol. Relationships between smoking, drinking and drug use are explored along with the links between smoking, drinking and drug use with other factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, previous truancy or exclusion, and school policies in these areas.

Key Facts

In summary, for pupils aged 11 to 15 in England, 2008:

  • Approximately a third (32 per cent) of pupils have tried smoking at least once and 6 per cent of pupils smoke regularly (at least once a week). 52 per cent of pupils have tried alcohol at least once and 18 per cent drank alcohol in the last week. 22 per cent of pupils had ever tried drugs and 8 per cent had taken drugs in the last month.
  • Pupils' smoking habits are often influenced by their families. Those who live with other smokers are more than twice as likely to smoke regularly, compared with those living in households where no-one else smoked. The proportion of pupils who smoke regularly also increases with the number of other smokers at home. About a fifth (21 per cent) of pupils who live with three or more other smokers are regular smokers themselves, compared with 3 per cent of pupils who live in a household where no-one else smoked.
  • In October 2007 the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco was increased from 16 to 18 as part of the Health Act 2006. In 2008, approximately a year later, 39 per cent of pupils reported they found it difficult to buy cigarettes from shops, an increase from 24 per cent in 2006 (this information was not collected in 2007). There has been a decline in the percentage of regular smokers who usually buy cigarettes in shops from 78 per cent in 2006 to 55 per cent in 2008. However, the percentage of regular smokers that buy cigarettes from other people has increased from the previous peak of 42 per cent in 2004 to 52 per cent in 2008.
  • For the first time, the 2008 survey explored the relationship between pupils' home context and whether they drank alcohol. Pupils are more than three times as likely to drink if they live with other people who do. The percentage who drank alcohol in the last week also increased with the number of other drinkers at home; for example, the percentage of pupils who have drunk alcohol in the last week increased from 5 per cent of those who live in non-drinking households to 31 per cent of those who live with three or more people who drank alcohol.
  • Pupils were most likely to have taken cannabis (9.0 per cent in the last year), 5.0 per cent had sniffed glue, gas or other volatile substances, 2.9 per cent had sniffed poppers and 3.6 per cent had taken any Class A drugs in the last year.


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Last edited: 11 April 2018 5:20 pm