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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 00:33 GMT
Teenage cannabis use 'on the rise'
Cannabis
Many people think smoking cannabis is safe
Increasing numbers of UK teenagers are using cannabis, a survey suggests.

The proportion of 14 and 15-year-old males who said they had tried the drug jumped from 19% in 1999 to 29% in 2001, according to research by the Schools Health Education Unit.


Whether this is a general trend or just something about the schools we are using isn't clear from this data

David Regis, director of Schools Health Education Unit

The survey also found Cannabis, which is being downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug, was the only illegal drug not considered to be "always unsafe" by older children.

SHEU director Dr David Regis sounded a "health warning" about the drugs figures, saying the schools chosen for the survey changed from year to year.

He said: "Whether this is a general trend or just something about the schools we are using isn't clear from this data."

Re-classifying the drug will mean being caught in possession by police will not automatically lead to arrest.

The SHEU survey also showed more teenage girls are smoking cannabis.

In 1999, 18% of 14 and 15-year-old girls said they had smoked it - in 2001, the proportion was 25%.

Cancer-causing

The results on cannabis come after research, published earlier this month, suggested people who smoke cannabis before they are 15 are 11 times more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life.

Scientists have also said that one cannabis cigarette contains the same amount of cancer-causing chemicals as five containing tobacco.

The SHEU questioned 15,881 teenagers at 334 primary and secondary schools around the UK on a range of social, health and education issues.

It found that more teenage boys were using the Internet without parental supervision - raising fears they could be looking at hardcore pornography and other unsuitable material.

The proportion of 14-15-year-old boys who said they surfed the Net with no supervision rose from 55% in 2000 to 67% last year.

The SHEU also discovered that 66% of all children now have access to the Internet, rising to 81% of 14 and 15-year-olds.

Mr Regis said "The potential exposure of youngsters to that has always been a concern.

"Clearly, the direction of supervision seems to be not what we would like."

See also:

11 Nov 02 | Health
06 Nov 02 | Health
05 Nov 02 | Health
10 Jul 02 | Health
21 Mar 00 | Medical notes
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