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Smoking and drinking among school-age children halves in 10 years

The number of school pupils who smoke regularly fell to just 3% in 2013, compared to 9% a decade ago, a report from the NHS information centre shows.

More than 5,000 11- to 15-year-olds were surveyed for the Health and Social Care Information Centre report, which also showed rates of pupils drinking regularly or ever taking drugs had more than halved.

The survey found that just 22% of pupils had ever tried smoking, compared with 42% in 2003 – the lowest since the survey began in 1982 – and just 9% of pupils had drunk alcohol in the past week, compared with 25% in 2003.

Only 16% of pupils said they had ever used drugs, compared with 30% in 2003, and 6% had used them in the past month – which has been stable since 2011.

The results are an ‘encouraging’ sign that attitudes to alcohol and drugs are changing, the report said.

It found that one in four pupils thought it was ‘ok’ for someone their age to drink once a week – for smoking this was one in eight pupils – and one in 20 said it was ok to take drugs once a week, with marijuana being most widely accepted.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: ‘Today’s report provides encouraging evidence that fewer young people are regularly smoking, drinking or using drugs, and levels have halved compared to 10 years ago.

‘It is certainly noteworthy that drug use has stayed stable in recent years.’

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