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Publication, Part of

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England, 2021

National statistics

National Statistics

Current Chapter

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England, 2021

Correction to sources of information on drug use data (part 10)

Following the initial publication it was discovered that around half of pupil responses to the question on 'Sources of helpful information about drug use' had been excluded from the results. This was corrected and the affected tables and commentary have been re-issued. 

In Part 10: Young people and drugs: the context, the affected outputs were tables 10.19, 10.20 and 10.21, and the associated chart and commentary in the section on 'Sources of helpful information about drug use'. Though some of the quoted figures changed by 0-3 percentage points, there was no effect to the order of contribution of the most common sources.

4 November 2022 00:00 AM


This report contains results from the latest survey of secondary school pupils in England in years 7 to 11 (mostly aged 11 to 15), focusing on smoking, drinking and drug use. It covers a range of topics including prevalence, habits, attitudes, and wellbeing. This survey is usually run every two years, however, due to the impact that the Covid pandemic had on school opening and attendance, it was not possible to run the survey as initially planned in 2020; instead it was delivered in the 2021 school year.

In 2021 additional questions were also included relating to the impact of Covid. They covered how pupil's took part in school learning in the last school year (September 2020 to July 2021), and how often pupil's met other people outside of school and home. Results of analysis covering these questions have been presented within parts of the report and associated data tables.

It includes this summary report showing key findings, excel tables with more detailed outcomes, 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 later in 2022 (see link below).

Access the code used to create this report

The code used to create the outputs for this report is available on our NHS Digital GitHub webpage

Click here to access the code

Key Facts

Based on the 2021 survey:

There has been a decrease in the prevalence of smoking cigarettes

12% of pupils had ever smoked (16% in 2018), 3% were current smokers (5% in 2018), and 1% were regular smokers (2% in 2018)

Current e-cigarette use (vaping) has increased to 9%, up from 6% in 2018

Around 1 in 5 (21%) 15-year old girls were classified as current e-cigarette users

40% of pupils said they had ever had an alcoholic drink

Prevalence increases with age, from 13% of 11 year olds to 65% of 15 year olds

6% of all pupils said they usually drank alcohol at least once per week, the same as in 2018

The proportion increases with age, from 1% of 11 year olds to 14% of 15 year olds

Fall in prevalence of lifetime and recent illicit drug use

18% of pupils reported they had ever taken drugs (24% in 2018), 12% had taken drugs in the last year (17% in 2018), and 6% in the last month (9% in 2018).

Pupils who frequently met up with people outside their school or home, were more likely to have recently smoked, drunk alcohol or taken drugs

Of pupils who met with people every day, 9% were current smokers, 12% usually drank alcohol once a week, and 19% had taken drugs in the last month. For pupils who had never met other people in the last four weeks, these proportions fell to 1%, 2%, and 2% respectively.

Low wellbeing more likely amongst pupils who recently smoked, drank and/or have taken drugs

Pupils who have recently smoked, drank alcohol and taken drugs* are more likely to report low levels of life satisfaction (57%) compared to pupils who have only done one of these (35%), and those who have done none of these (18%)

* recently refers to smoking in the last week, drinking alcohol in the last week, and taking drugs in the last month

Last edited: 4 November 2022 9:35 am