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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England - 2009

National statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Regions, Country, Government Office Regions
Date Range:
01 Jan 2009 to 31 Dec 2009


This report contains results from an annual survey of secondary school pupils in years 7 to 11 (mostly aged 11 to 15). 7,674 pupils in 247 schools in England completed questionnaires in the autumn term of 2009.

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, the Home Office and the Department for Education (formerly the Department for Children, Schools and Families). 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 use. The emphasis of the 2009 survey is on drug use.

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, drinking and drug use and where children obtain cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. 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.

Key Facts

  • 22 per cent of pupils reported ever having taken drugs, 15 per cent had taken drugs in the last year and 8% had taken drugs in the last month, a decrease from 29 per cent, 20 per cent and 12 per cent respectively in 2001 (the first year in which the current method of measuring drug use was used).
  • Less than one in ten pupils thought that it would be OK for someone of their age to try drugs or take them regularly; for example, they were slightly more tolerant of cannabis use (9 per cent thought it OK to try once, 5 per cent to take once a week) than sniffing glue (9 per cent once, 3 per cent once a week) and cocaine was seen as the least acceptable of the drugs (3 per cent thought it OK to try once, 1 per cent to take once a week).
  • Almost all pupils thought their families would either try to stop them from taking drugs (84 per cent) or would try to persuade them to stop (15 per cent). There was a strong relationship between drug use and families' attitudes: those who thought their families would try to stop them taking drugs were less likely to have taken drugs than those who thought their families would take a more lenient view.
  • Three in ten (29 per cent) pupils have tried smoking at least once, the lowest percentage since the survey began in 1982 when 53 per cent of pupils had tried smoking. The prevalence of regular smoking has declined from its peak of 13 per cent in 1996 to 6 per cent in 2007 and has remained at 6 per cent in 2008 and 2009.
  • 51 per cent of pupils have tried alcohol at least once and 18 per cent drank alcohol in the last week, a decrease from the peak of 26 per cent in 2001. The percentage of pupils between 11 and 15 who have never drunk alcohol has risen in recent years from 39 per cent in 2003 to 49 per cent in 2009.
  • The survey sample represents an estimated population of 3.1 million young people aged between 11 and 15. Findings indicate that in England in 2009 around 180,000 11 to 15 years olds were regular smokers, around 540,000 drank alcohol in the last week, around 250,000 had taken drugs (including glue, gas and other volatile substances) in the last month and around 450,000 had taken drugs in the last year.


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Last edited: 11 April 2018 5:20 pm