One in five 15-year-old girls in England vape


Proportion of 15-year-old girls using e-cigarettes has doubled since 2018, seven percentage points higher than boys of same age

More than one in five 15-year-old girls use electronic cigarettes, new statistics show, with the rise of vaping among that age group reminiscent of smoking levels more than a decade ago.

The research found 21% of 15-year-old girls admitted to currently using e-cigarettes in 2021, more than double the amount recorded by NHS Digital in 2018 (10%). The proportion of girls who vape was seven percentage points higher than boys of the same age.

The Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England 2021 report showed that the proportion of pupils who said they were smokers declined from 5% in 2018 to 3% in 2021 – a record low. Fewer than one in eight secondary schoolchildren (12%) had ever smoked a cigarette in 2021 – the lowest number since comparable records began in 1982.

But the number using electronic cigarettes was at a record high. In 2021, 9% of school pupils had ever vaped – the highest figure on record, up from 6% in 2018. Girls aged 15 were the most likely to do so; while more than a fifth said they were a current e-cigarette user, 12% said they regularly used e-cigarettes. The last time regular smoking levels were as high among 15-year-old girls was in 2010, when 14% said they were regular smokers.

However, the study also showed progress on reducing drink and drug use. Only 18% of 11- to 15-year-olds in England reported ever taking drugs in 2021, down from 24% in 2018, according to new figures released by NHS Digital. Only 40% of pupils last year said they had ever drunk alcohol, down from 44% in 2018 and 2016.

The figures show that more sociable secondary-school pupils – those who met people outside home or school more frequently – were more likely to have tried illegal drugs, drunk alcohol or smoked than those who had rarely seen people in the last month.

Just under one in five (19%) of those who met people outside home or school every day had taken drugs in the last month. That compares with 8% of those who socialised outside a few times a week and 5% of those who met people outside home or school just once a week. Only 2% of those who had not met anyone in the last month had taken drugs.

The statistics suggest that Covid-19 may have played a part in the decline in drug use as restrictions in early 2021 may have limited the opportunity for young people to socialise outside school.

There was a big decrease in the percentage of pupils who had tried nitrous oxide (known as laughing gas). Only 3% of pupils had tried it in 2021, down 2.8 percentage points since 2018. The proportion of secondary-school pupils who had tried glue and solvents fell by 2.2 percentage points to 6.8%, while cocaine usage fell from 1.8% of pupils to 1.4%.

The decline in drug use, drinking and smoking may mark a positive for young people’s mental health and wellbeing. More than half of children who had taken drugs in the last month recorded low levels of happiness in that time, compared with just 26% of those who had not smoked, drunk alcohol or taken drugs.

Read full article here.

Michael Goodier – The Guardian – 2022-09-06.

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