Children need to be warned off binge drinking, the report says
A panel of government advisers has called for new measures to reduce the problem of drinking and smoking among young people.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) says there have been "wide variations" in schools' education programmes.
Organisations working in the field agree a wide range of different approaches are needed.
Independent charity Drugsline sends outreach workers into schools to warn about the risks of alcohol and tobacco as well as drugs.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the message does get through to children, said its chief executive Christina Ball.
"Millions have been spent on drugs education but I'm not convinced enough funding has been allocated to frontline work," she said.
"Alcohol and soft drugs like cannabis have become socially acceptable and so education should be about making people aware more and more could have severe problems in later life."
Ms Ball said it was essential students learnt about "real-life situations" from the mouths of people who had experienced alcoholism or drug problems themselves.
She also backed the view that education should not be limited only to younger students.
"It's all very well sending out a strong powerful message but it can all be forgotten if not repeated," she said.
ACDM proposals call for the raising of the duty on alcohol, increasing the legal smoking age from 16 to 18 and imposing bans on drink advertising.
It has been backed by the charity Action on Addiction.
"If this happens it will be a landmark for drug policy in the UK," it said.
Dr Jim McCambridge, researcher for Action on Addiction, said: "We need to rethink drug education in schools and also develop new ways of influencing the use of legal and illegal drugs in colleges and universities.
"The implementation of this broad range of measures is necessary to remove Britain from having the worst legal and illegal drug problem among young people in Europe."
Teenagers sometimes complain a lack of things to do or responsibilities can encourage then to binge drink or take up smoking.
Youth groups say providing them with activities can be invaluable.
Teenagers turn up at Coram's Fields Youth Resource Centre in central London to participate in a range of events.
Administrator Sandy Wynn said teenagers who say they are keen on pursuing sports are sometimes spotted smoking.
"Youth workers would make an effort to involve those individuals in one-to-one discussions to point out the damage smoking could do to their aspirations," she said.
Medical experts and reformed addicts also host sessions at the centre to highlight the risks of alcohol and tobacco.
"To get the message across very much depends on talking about the dangers of smoking or drinking in a sensible and realistic manner," she said.
"It shouldn't just be about making someone look at information and literature."