The latest survey looking at young people’s attitudes to smoking, alcohol and drugs shows that levels of consumption are still remaining much lower than ten years ago across Northern Ireland.
Though there has been a slight rise in the number of young people taking up smoking and having a drink, the year on year statistics still show our young people are being much more careful about taking up habits than at the turn of the century.
The survey was conducted annually by the Department of Health.
In 2019, one-in-ten young people reported they had smoked at some stage in their life (10%) with 4% indicating that they currently smoked. This represents a decrease since 2000, when two-fifths (37%) reported ever having smoked and 15% were current smokers.
Boys (11%) were more likely to report that they had smoked at some time than girls (8%). Young people living in the most deprived areas were more likely to report ever having smoked (13%) than those in the least deprived areas (7%) though the rate of current smoking was similar (5% and 3% respectively).
The majority of young people (95%) had heard of e-cigarettes, with a fifth saying they had used an e-cigarette at least once.
Those in the older year groups were more likely to report ever having used, with findings ranging from 4% of those in Year 8 to 38% of those in Year 12. A small proportion (3%) report using e-cigarettes on a regular basis (at least once a week).
Since 2000, there has been a decline in both the proportion of young people ever having drank alcohol and the proportion of those who drank that report having been drunk.
Half as many young people reported ever having a drink in 2019 (29%) than in 2000 (59%); boys were more likely to report having taken a drink (32%) than girls (26%) and those in Year 12 (56%) were more likely to have done so than those in Year 8 (9%).
A small proportion (5%) of respondents reported ever using drugs; boys (6%) were more likely to report having used drugs than girls (3%) and those in Year 12 (10%) were more likely to have used than those in Year 8 (2%).
Young people were also asked their opinion on whether certain behaviours are ‘ok for someone your age’. Around a quarter (27%) indicated that it is ok for someone their age to drink alcohol once a week while 14% felt it was ok to smoke cigarettes once a week and 6% thought it was ok to take cannabis once a week.