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Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England 2018 [NS]

National statistics

National Statistics

Part 2: Young people who smoke

This part focuses on the behaviour of pupils who are categorised as current smokers, and covers:

  • where pupils get their cigarettes, including direct and proxy purchasing.
  • dependence on smoking.
  • family knowledge of pupil smoking.​

Current smokers include regular smokers (defined as usually smoking at least one cigarette per week) and occasional smokers (defined as usually smoking less than one cigarette per week). The category of occasional smokers includes pupils who said that they did not smoke but who recorded some cigarette consumption in the last week.​

Three things should be kept in mind when considering the findings in this part.​

  • The findings are based on a relatively small proportion of 11 to 15 year olds.

  • The profile of current smokers is weighted towards girls: 54% of current smokers are girls, compared with 46% of boys1.​
  • More than half of current smokers are aged 15 (55%). 25% are aged 14 and just 20% are aged between 11 and 131.


1. Based on weighted data.


Where pupils get cigarettes

Usual sources, by year (current smokers)

Pupils could give more than one answer for this measure and only the most common sources are shown. A longer time series based on regular smokers can be seen in the data tables (table 2.1b), but current smokers are discussed here due to the larger sample size.

In 2018, the most common source of cigarettes for current smokers was to be given them by friends (57%).  ​

The proportion buying cigarettes from shops declined from 46% in 2014 to 23% in 2018. The display of tobacco products in all shops has been prohibited since 2015.​


For more data relating to this section:



Dependency and giving up smoking

Dependency on smoking, by length of time have smoked regularly

Pupils who smoke regularly tend to see themselves as dependent on the habit.

61% of regular smokers reported that they would find it very or fairly difficult to not smoke for a week, while 74% reported that they would find it very or fairly difficult to give up smoking altogether.

Pupils who had been regular smokers for more than one year were more likely to find it difficult to not smoke for a week (84%), and give up altogether (87%) 


Desire to giving up smoking

21% of regular smokers were committed to giving up; they had tried in the past and said that they would still like to.

But over a third (34%) were unconcerned about dependence on smoking; they had never tried to give up and did not want to.


Approaches and services used to help give up smoking

This measure only concerns current and ex-smokers (not those who only tried cigarettes). Pupils could give more than one answer.

Most current and ex-smokers had used one of the services or approaches asked about (85% and 75% respectively).

The most common approach for ex- smokers was to not spend time with friends who smoked (45%), and the use of e-cigarettes (44%). For current smokers, 66% had tried using e-cigarettes to give up.


For more data relating to this section:



Family knowledge of pupil smoking

This measure excludes ‘reclassified’ occasional smokers; pupils who recorded some smoking in the past seven days, but described themselves as non-smokers and so were not given the opportunity to record whether their families knew they smoked.

Family knowledge by pupil smoking status

Of the pupils that currently smoke, 49% were secret smokers.

Occasional smokers were more likely to be secret smokers; 60% compared with 37% of regular smokers.



For more data relating to this section:

Last edited: 23 January 2020 3:48 pm