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Home > Young persons’ behaviour and attitudes survey 2019: substance use - (smoking, alcohol & drugs).

Foster, Cyrss and Scarlett, Mary and Stewart, Bill (2020) Young persons’ behaviour and attitudes survey 2019: substance use - (smoking, alcohol & drugs). Belfast: Department of Health.

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The Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey (YPBAS) is a school based survey carried out among 11-16 year olds (school years 8 to 12) in Northern Ireland. 

Summary of key findings

Smoking

  • In 2019, one-in-ten young people reported ever having smoked (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 ever having smoked than girls (8%). Young people living in the most deprived quintile were more likely to report ever having smoked (13%) than those in the least deprived quintile (7%) though the rate of current smoking was similar (5% and 3% respectively). 

E-cigarettes

  • The majority of young people (95%) had heard of e-cigarettes, with a fifth having used an ecigarette 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). 

Alcohol

  • 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%). 

Drugs

  • 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%). 

Attitudes

  • Respondents were 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, 14% felt it was ok to smoke cigarettes once a week and 6% thought it was ok to take cannabis once a week.

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