An annual survey of secondary school pupils in England indicates that the number of adolescent smokers has hit a record low.
The results from the annual Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England – 2016 have been revealed this month. The survey has been undertaken annually since 1982 and surveys secondary school students in England in years 7-11. Of the 12,051pupils in the 2016 survey, one in five (19%) said that they had ever smoked. In this section half had only tried smoking and the remaining half split between regular, occasional and ex-smokers. Similar figures were found in the 2014 survey, but the overall number of young people who classed themselves as regular smokers has gone down to 3%.
There are a number of contributing factors that researchers believe have impacted results, including higher taxes on tobacco and the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes. Alyssa Best, Tobacco Policy Advisor at Cancer Research UK said “This continued decline in regular youth smoking has been made possible by effective tobacco control measures over the years, such as tax rises to make tobacco less affordable, and standard packs to make cigarettes less desirable”
Best continued to urge the government to continue working to reduce smoking rates, prioritising tobacco control to work towards the goal of a “smokefree generation”.
E-Cigarettes were cited as another contributing factor to the decline of young smokers, contradicting the belief of some that they act as a gateway to regular smoking. The percentage of students who have used e-cigarettes has increased from 22% in 2014 to 25% in 2016, however, these levels remain low and are seen as ‘experimentation’ rather than regular use.