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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Teens risking future health
The number of teenagers who regularly smoke is up slightly
The number of teenagers who regularly smoke is up slightly
More teenagers are drinking, smoking and taking drugs, official figures show.

The increases are relatively small, but indicate a worrying trend, given the government's drive to cut substance misuse in the young.

Campaigners called for more to be done to stop teenagers and children abusing drink, drugs and cigarettes.

The independent survey questioned 7,000 secondary school pupils from across England last year.

Drug misuse

A key pledge by the government has been to cut the number of under 25s using Class A drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, by half by 2008.

But the survey shows 9% of teenagers aged 11-15 had used drugs in the last month, up 2% from 1998.

Teenagers were most likely to have tried cannabis out of all drugs
Teenagers were most likely to have tried cannabis out of all drugs
The number who had used drugs in the previous year stood at 14%, a 3% rise from 1998.

The most popular drug was cannabis - 12% had used it over the last year.

One per cent had used heroin or methadone, and 4% had used drugs such as cocaine, crack, ecstasy, amphetamines and poppers.

Over a third said they had been offered drugs.

Smoking habits

The survey shows girls are still more likely to smoke than boys aged 11-15.

After a fall from 13 - 9% between 1996 and 1999 in the total number of teenagers smoking, the figure for 2000 was up to 10%.


Teenage smoking is a slow-burning health tragedy - many of these youngsters will be the cancer and heart patients of the future

Clive Bates,
Action on Smoking and Health
The Department of Health has set itself an aim of reducing the number of regular teenage smokers to 9% by 2010.

The number of teenagers drinking alcohol was also up, but the department said that figure "fluctuated" over time.

Twenty-four per cent had had an alcoholic drink in the previous week.

That figure had fallen from a high of 27% in 1996, before rising in 2000.

At 11, only 5% had drunk in the last week. By 15, the proportion is almost half.

And on average, teenagers are drinking twice as much per week as they were in 1990 - at over 10 units.

Boys still tend to drink more than girls.

'Slow-burning problem'

Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health said: "Teenage smoking is a slow-burning health tragedy - many of these youngsters will be the cancer and heart patients of the future, and as their nicotine addiction sets in, they'll find it harder to shake off smoking when they start to get worried about their health and want to quit."

Sir Paul Nurse, director general of Imperial Cancer Research Fund called on the government to implement a ban on tobacco advertising, and said: ¿Here in black and white we have the government¿s own figures illustrating the potential for an increase in cancer deaths in the future, as more kids take up smoking."

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "This report confirms the worrying recent trend which has been showing an increase in young people's drinking."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was on course to meet its smoking targets, but there were concerns about the small increase in the percentage of young people who had used drugs in the last month and in the last year.

Dr Aric Sigman, a consultant psychologist who works in children's health education, told the BBC social changes such as the rise in divorce and longer working hours meant young people were left to their own devices much more than in the past.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Nisbet
"10% of teenagers said they are now regular smokers"
See also:

20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
06 Jul 00 | Health
Teenage drinking
31 May 00 | Health
Teenage smoking rates fall again
23 Nov 00 | Health
One in 10 children use cannabis
20 Feb 01 | Health
Teenage drink and drugs in Europe
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