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UK School Children Prefer Vaping Over Smoking & Drugs

Following a recent study, NHS Digital have found a reduction in school children using drugs or smoking, but the use of vapes is increasing.

Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England, 2021 – a study by NHS digital, that came out in September 2022, revealed that 9% of school children aged 11-15 regularly use e-cigarettes. This is a 6% rise since 2018, when a similar study was conducted. 

Which school children are vaping?

Across the UK, those who smoke cigarettes, vape, or use both has risen in the last few years (among all demographics). In 2018, 29% of the public reported smoking and/or vaping, and in 2021, that number rose to 61%!

These new statistics from the NHS have revealed that a whopping 23% of school children who meet people outside of school every day are current vapers. This is a huge rate compared to the 1% of school children who reported vaping but do not socialise outside of home or school. 

The report revealed that 1 in 5 15-year-old female-identifying students vaped.

In addition, the publication found that students who always attended school in person in the last school year were twice as likely to be current e-cigarette users (14%) compared to those who attended school remotely for all or most of the school year (7%).

school children

Which school children are smoking or taking drugs?

Although there is a rise in vaping, the study found that only 3% of students have reported being active smokers. On top of this, only 12% reported having ever smoked (a 4% decrease since 2016)—the lowest level ever recorded!

The survey has also revealed that there has been a dip in school children using drugs since the last survey was conducted back in 2018. In the recent study, 18% of students reported that they have taken drugs before—a decline from 2018 where it was 24%. 

According to the report, cannabis is the most popular recreational drug used by school children—with 6% of pupils reporting that they had previously smoked cannabis, down from 8% in 2018. Class A drugs, however, reported to have been used by children is around 2-3%, and has been the same since 2010.

How did the pandemic effect smoking in school children?

Across the study, NHS Digital studied school children across the September 2020 to July 2021 school year to analyse the impact on both learning and social elements. 

The research found that students who tend to socialise outside of school with peers outside of their institution or home were more likely to have drank alcohol, smoked, or taken drugs. Out of those students, results found: 

  • 9% were current smokers
  • 12% usually drank alcohol once a week
  • 19% had taken drugs in the last month

However, those children who didn’t socialise with students from other schools reported the following:

  • 1% were current smokers
  • 2% usually drank alcohol once a week
  • 2% had taken drugs in the last month

Following this, NHS digital also wanted to study school children’s life satisfaction rates, especially in those who regularly use substances. The results found that 57% of students who had recently smoked, drank alcohol, and taken drugs were experiencing low levels of life satisfaction, whereas students who had only done one of these things were at 35%, and those who had done none at 18%.

school children

Are less children taking substances?

The results of the study by NHS Digital have shown that there has definitely been a reduction in children smoking cigarettes and taking drugs—but an increase in vaping has some people worried. Although vaping should not be available to children, ways are still found, and regulations are changing to try and restrict youth access even further. 

RELATED: Fruity Chinese Vapes Face New Ban

Although children should absolutely not be vaping (or smoking, drinking, or taking drugs), it’s worth noting that vaping is significantly safer for your body than smoking cigarettes, and smokers will benefit from making the switch.

It’s important to note that the best UK vape stores will sell you legal vaping equipment and avoid selling it to minors. 


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