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Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Teenage smoking rates fall again
teenage smokers
Teenage smoking rates falling
Smoking among teenagers has fallen again in the past year - but official figures show levels of drug use are up.

An Office of National Statistics (ONS) survey of schoolchildren aged between 11 and 15 showed 9% smoked regularly in the past 12 months, compared to 11% the previous year.

These figures show that the smoking rates are heading in the right direction, but we know we can't be complacent

Department of Health
The 9% figure was significantly down on the 13% of young people who smoked regularly according to a similar survey in 1996, suggesting the decline is real.

But 12% had used drugs in the past year - slightly up from the figure of 11% for 1998.

Meanwhile, following a fall in the proportion of pupils who drank alcohol between 1996 and 1998, there was no further change in the past year.

The ONS interviewed more than 9,000 pupils in 340 schools across England about their drug use, and smoking and drinking habits in the autumn of 1999.

More girls smoke than boys, with 10% of teenage girls having at least one cigarette a week, compared to 8% of their male classmates.

And while only 1% of 11-year-olds smoke, almost a quarter of 15-year-olds regularly have a cigarette.

But health ministers welcomed the drop, which comes on World No Tobacco Day and after the government has pledged to reduce the number of smokers by 1.5 million over the next decade.


The target includes a pledge to reduce the rate of all teenage smoking to 11% by 2005 and to 9% by 2010.

Although today's statistics show that figure has already been achieved with young teenagers, up to 40% of older teenagers still smoke.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "These figures show that the smoking rates are heading in the right direction, but we know we can't be complacent about this.

"We need to continue with health prevention measures and enforcement of the law to make sure young teenagers cannot buy cigarettes."

Amanda Sandford at Action on Smoking and Health, said: "It is very good news. I think it would be fair to assume this is the beginning of a downward trend.

"All credit to the government - their policies are paying off.

Regular teenage smokers
1996 - 13%
1998 - 11%
1999 - 9%
"The key thing now is to get rid of all tobacco promotion and look at keeping up the health promotion message."

The figures for drug use also showed differences by age, with just 1% of 11-year-olds using illegal substances in the last year, compared to a third of 15-year-olds.

Cannabis was most likely to be used, with 11% of pupils admitting to taking the drug in the last year.

The next most commonly used substances - glue, gas and "poppers" - had only be used by 2% of youngsters.

And more than a third of all the pupils and 62% of 15-year-olds said they had been offered drugs.

One in five of the pupils said they had had an alcoholic drink in the last week, unchanged from 1999.

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19 Nov 99 | Medical notes
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