Smoking, drinking and drug use survey

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Almost half of young people aged between 11 and 15 have never had a proper alcoholic drink, six out of ten have never smoked and drug taking prevalence has dropped, according to a national school survey.

The key findings of the survey are:

In 2006, 21 per cent drank alcohol in the previous week, dropping from 26 per cent in 2001. Almost half of the young people surveyed said they had never had a proper alcoholic drink.

The survey also found that in 2006, 61 per cent of pupils said they had never smoked. The proportion who have never smoked rose from 47 per cent in 1982 to 61 per cent in 2004 and has remained at a similar level since. This means the Government has continually met the target of reducing the numbers of young smokers to nine per cent by 2010, ahead of schedule for the past three years.

Drug taking prevalence among children is down from last year with 17 per cent admitting to taking drugs in the last year, down from 19 per cent in 2005. Nine per cent had taken drugs in the last month, also lower than the proportion who had done so in 2005. (11 per cent)

Four per cent said they usually took drugs once a month or more often, a decrease from six per cent in 2005.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint has welcomed the many encouraging findings in the new survey which show inroads are being made in the fight against smoking, drug and alcohol misuse amongst young people, and has spoken of her commitment to continuing the work that still needs to be done to protect and help children.

Ms Flint said:

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"This survey has revealed some very encouraging results. Six out of ten children have never smoked. Drug taking prevalence among children is down from last year. And the number of young people who have drunk alcohol in the last week, has dropped from 26 per cent in 2001 to 21 per cent in 2006.

"This demonstrates that our policies are having a real impact in terms of tackling substance misuse amongst young people.

"Despite these promising figures, we are not complacent - just one young person smoking or misusing alcohol or drugs is one too many.

"In terms of alcohol and young people it is vital that we make children aware of the sensible drinking message from an early age so that as adults, they will be responsible drinkers. We are raising this awareness through our high profile Know Your Limits responsible drinking campaign.

"We will help cut the numbers of young smokers through raising the minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 16 - 18 years old, which will come into effect from 1 October 2007. And on 1 July 2007 virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces will become smokefree. This will mean that not only will people be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, it will also help denormalise smoking and make smoking less attractive to young people.

"We are committed to ensuring that progress is maintained and we are working closely with colleagues in the Home Office and DfES to ensure that we develop policies that best support the needs of young people."

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said;

"Today's results demonstrate the real impact of our unparalleled investment in work to reduce drug misuse by young people.

"This success is due to the Frank education campaign and the local professionals who work hard to divert young people from taking drugs through prevention, education, support and targeted intervention.

"However, the cost of drug misuse to people, families and communities cannot be underestimated. We are exploring how the future drug strategy can build on local success to tackle drugs and make communities even safer."

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