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Drug and alcohol use among young teens drops

Young teens are smoking and drinking less than a decade ago, according to new figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The report Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2011 found drug taking among secondary school children aged 11 to 15 years old fell 12% in the past ten years.

Around one in six (17%) surveyed admitted they had taken drugs, down from 29% of young teens in 2001.

Drug taking among 15 year-olds fell 16% alone during the past decade from 39% in 2001 to 23% in 2011.

The survey also found while cannabis remains the most popular drug of choice for pupils at secondary school, use of the drug was down almost 6% on 2001 levels to 7.6% in 2011.

Continuing the downward trend, 45% of 11 to 15 year olds reported as having drunk alcohol at least once in 2011, compared to 61% in 2001.

Siobhan McCann, Head of Campaigns and Communications at alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said the HSCIC's report was “encouraging” and should prompt more parents to talk more openly with their children about their alcohol consumption.

Figures also showed one in four 11 to 15 year olds had tried smoking - the lowest proportion of young teens since the HSCIC survey began in 1982.

The number of those children surveyed classed as “regular smokers” - smoking at least one cigarette a week - has also halved in the past ten years to 5% in 2011.

“The report shows that pupils appear to be leading an increasingly clean-living lifestyle and are less likely to take drugs as well as cigarettes and alcohol,” said Tim Straughan, Chief Executive at HSCIC.

“[This information] will be of immense interest to those who work with young people and aim to steer them towards a healthier way of life.”

HSCIC surveyed around 6,500 pupils between September and December 2011.