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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England - 2016

National statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Regions, Country, Government Office Regions
Date Range:
01 Sep 2016 to 31 Jan 2017


This report contains results from an annual survey of secondary school pupils in England in years 7 to 11 (mostly aged 11 to 15). 12,051 pupils in 177 schools completed questionnaires in the autumn term of 2016.

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. In 2000, the survey questions changed to focus on smoking and drinking or on drug use in alternate years and in 2016, the survey reverted back to including both drinking/smoking and drugs focused questions in one survey.

The survey report presents information on the percentage of pupils who have ever smoked, tried alcohol or taken drugs and their attitudes towards these behaviours.  It also includes breakdowns by age, gender, ethnicity and region.

Other areas covered include the use of new psychoactive substances (also known as legal highs), beliefs about drinking, whether pupils had ever got drunk and consequences of drinking. Questions on the use of nitrous oxide have also been asked for the first time.

The attachments below include a summary report showing key findings in slides format, excel tables with more detailed findings, technical appendices and a data quality statement. An anonymised record level file of the underlying data on which users can carry out their own analysis will be made available via the UK Data Service in 2018.

UPDATE 03/05/2018

Since the original publication of this report, NHS Digital discovered an error in tables 4.4 and 4.5. This relates to the proportion of pupils who reported having been ‘exposed to second hand smoke in a home or in a car in the last year’. There was an error in the calculation of the previously published figures in this row for both tables. Other rows were not affected. The impact of the correction has been to increase the percentage for all pupils from 48% to 62%. This figure has also been corrected on page 23 of the main report. NHS Digital apologises for any inconvenience caused.

UPDATE 11/12/2018

NHS Digital discovered errors that affected tables 6.21 and 6.22 (number of occasions drunk in last 4 weeks), and 9.1 to 9.8, 9.17, 9.19 and 9.20 (various drug use prevalence figures). These tables have now been corrected.

The impact on the prevalence estimates for the tables affected was:

  • Tables 6.21 and 6.22:  Maximum change was 0.05 percentage points.
  • Tables 9.1 to 9.3:  Maximum change was 0.7 percentage points
  • Tables 9.4 and 9.5: Maximum change for “ever taking drugs excluding volatile substances” is 5.9 percentage points.  “Taken drugs in the last year excluding volatile substances” and “taken drugs in the last month excluding volatile substances” were also affected but not by more than 1.5 percentage points.
  • Table 9.6:  Maximum change for “any drug (excluding psychoactive substances)”, “any drug (excluding volatile substances)” and “any class A drug” is 0.8 percentage points.
  • Table 9.7:  The same estimates as in table 9.6 are affected but this time the maximum change is 1.5 percentage points.
  • Table 9.8:  The same estimates as in tables 9.6 and 9.7 are affected but this time the maximum change is 4.3 percentage points.
  • Table 9.17:  Maximum change was 0.02 percentage points.
  • Table 9.19:  The only change was 3 percentage points for “any drug (excluding psychoactive substances)”.
  • Table 9.20:  The only changes were for “any drug (excluding psychoactive substances)” and the maximum change was 3.3 percentage points.

One figure on page 58 of the pdf report (taken drugs in the last month excluding psychoactive substances) was also corrected from 8% to 9%.  

NHS Digital apologises for any inconvenience caused.



In 2016

  • 19 per cent of 11-15 year old pupils had ever smoked, which is similar to 2014.
  • 44 per cent of pupils had ever drunk alcohol which is not comparable with earlier surveys.
  • 24 per cent of pupils reported they had ever taken drugs. This compares to 15 per cent in 2014. Part of the increase since 2014 may be explained by the addition of questions on nitrous oxide and new psychoactive substances. After allowing for this however, it still represents a large increase which has not been observed in other data sources1. Therefore an estimate from the next survey in 2018 is required before we can be confident that these survey results reflect a genuine trend in the wider population. In the meantime the results for drug taking from this survey should be treated with caution.
  • 3 per cent of pupils were weekly (regular) smokers, 10 per cent had drunk alcohol in the last week and 10 per cent had taken drugs in the last month.

1) A comparison with other data sources is given on page 65 of the report.


Last edited: 24 March 2022 6:03 pm