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More than a fifth of young people have tried e-cigarettes

23 July, 2015: School pupil survey asks about use of new smoking products and legal highs for the first time

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional data are available within this report

More than a fifth (22 per cent2) of 11 to 15 year olds3 have used e-cigarettes at least once, and the majority (88 per cent) have heard of them, according to new figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Today's report, Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, 20144, found that use of e-cigarettes varied according to age, gender and smoking status:

  • One in 20 (five per cent) 11 year olds said they had ever used e-cigarettes. By comparison, the figure was seven times higher (35 per cent) for 15 year olds.
  • Boys (23 per cent) were more likely to have ever used e-cigarettes than girls (20 per cent).
  • Nine in ten (89 per cent) regular cigarette smokers5 had ever used e-cigarettes, compared to one in ten (11 per cent) who had never smoked.

Alongside e-cigarettes, pupils were also asked for the first time about legal highs.6 Half of pupils (51 per cent) had heard of legal highs and six per cent had been offered them, although use was relatively low at three per cent.

The report shows a decline in the prevalence of smoking, alcohol and drug use7 among 11 to 15 year olds. In addition to monitoring use, the survey reports on the attitudes of pupils and found that drug use was considered to be the least acceptable. Nearly half (48 per cent) of pupils thought that that it was okay to try drinking alcohol to see what it was like, followed by smoking cigarettes (26 per cent) and taking cannabis (nine per cent).

The report also shows that in 2014:

  • Fewer than one in five (18 per cent) pupils had ever used cigarettes. This is the lowest level since the survey began in 1982 and continues the decline since 2003, when 42 per cent of pupils had ever used cigarettes.
  • Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of pupils reported being exposed to second hand smoke either in someone's home (including their own) or in a car.
  • Fewer than four in ten pupils (38 per cent) had ever drunk alcohol, the lowest proportion since the survey began. The proportion of boys (37%) and girls (39%) who had ever drunk alcohol was similar.
  • A quarter (26 per cent) of pupils in London had tried alcohol, compared to 44 per cent in the North East and West Midlands. Between ethnic groups, this ranged from 10 per cent of Asian pupils to 42 per cent of white pupils.
  • The decline in the proportion of pupils who had ever taken drugs has been slower in recent years than during the period between 2001 and 2010, when it fell from 29 per cent to 18 per cent. In 2014, 15 per cent of pupils reported they had ever taken drugs.
  • Cannabis continues to be the drug that pupils are most likely to have taken, with seven per cent reporting to have taken it in the last year.

Paul Niblett, Responsible Statistician for the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, 2014 survey, said: "It is encouraging to see that the decline in young people smoking or drinking continues and whilst the use of drugs has stabilised, figures are nevertheless at a record low.

"Today's report also provides information about additional behaviours for the first time. At a time when little is still known about these areas, the insight from today's survey will be of value to those working with young people, in education and public health."

The full report is at:


Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 260 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.
  3. A small number of school pupils were aged 16 at the time of completing the survey, but were aged 15 at the start of the academic year.
  4. Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England, 2014 is based on the survey results of 6,173 pupils in 210 schools in the autumn term of 2014. NatCen Social Research (NatCen) and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) were commissioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre to carry out the survey.
  5. Regular smokers are defined as usually smoking at least one cigarette per week.
  6. In 2014, for the first time pupils were asked about e-cigarettes, legal highs, water pipe tobacco and energy drinks.
  7. School pupils were asked about their awareness and use of commonly used illicit drugs. More information can be found in section 8.1.1 of the report.
  8. For media enquires or interview requests please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Please note the change to our media line number.
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