Fall in children on drink and drugs
Teens are shunning drink and drugs for a healthier lifestyle, figures suggest.
Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic fall in the number of 11 to 15-year-olds who drink, take drugs or smoke, according to new data.
A Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) poll of 7,500 children in England found that in 2012, only two-fifths had ever drunk alcohol, compared to 61% in 2002.
Only one in five children said they had tried smoking, compared with two in five a decade ago. And 17% said they had tried drugs, compared with 27% in 2002.
Researchers found that the proportion of high school pupils who have tried drinking or smoking is highest in the north-east of England. But the proportion of youngsters who had tried drugs was highest in southern regions and lower in the north.
"It's encouraging to see fewer young people drinking but overall there remain worrying trends which we need to tackle," said Tom Smith, policy programme manager at charity Alcohol Concern.
"Those children who do drink are drinking more - one in four drinkers consumes over 15 units per week. In addition, the frequency of spirit consumption among girls has doubled since 1990 and they're now more likely than boys to have been drunk in the last four weeks. To get to grips with these issues we need the Government to introduce a minimum unit price, a targeted measure designed to protect the young and which we know saves lives and cuts crime."
Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, added: "Drinking, smoking and taking illicit drugs are all risky behaviours that can lead to both physical and mental health problems. It's good news that fewer children are taking these risks, but there's still a huge job to do. We must continue to educate both parents and children about how substance misuse can negatively impact on their mental health."
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said: "The continued decline in child smoking shows the importance of having a comprehensive tobacco control strategy. Much has been achieved in recent years but still around 200,000 children take up smoking each year. The failure of the Government to bring forward legislation to implement standard packaging was a missed opportunity to significantly reduce the attractiveness of smoking to children."