One in five 15-year-old girls vape in England | Electronic cigarettes

More than one in five 15-year-old girls use e-cigarettes, according to new statistics, with the rise in vaping in this age group reminiscent of smoking levels more than a decade ago.

Research found that 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 that of boys of the same age.

The smoker, The 2021 report on alcohol and drug use among young people in England showed the proportion of pupils who said they were smokers fell from 5% in 2018 to 3% in 2021 – a record high. Fewer than one in eight high school students (12%) had ever smoked a cigarette in 2021 – the lowest number since comparable records began in 1982.

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

However, the study also showed progress in reducing drink and drug consumption. Only 18% of 11-15 year olds in England said they had ever used drugs in 2021, down from 24% in 2018, according to new figures released by NHS Digital. Last year, only 40% of students said they had ever drunk alcohol, compared to 44% in 2018 and 2016.

Figures show that the most social high school students – those who met people outside of home or school more frequently – were more likely to have tried illegal drugs, drank alcohol or smoked than those who had rarely seen people in the past month.

Chart titled: Nearly one in five high school students who socialize outside of school and home have used drugs in the past month

Just under one in five (19%) of those who met people outside the home or school every day had used drugs in the previous month. This compares to 8% of those who socialized outdoors a few times a week and 5% of those who met people outside the home or school just once a week. Only 2% of those who had not met anyone in the past month had used drugs.

Statistics suggest that Covid-19 may have played a role in the drop in drug use, as restrictions in early 2021 may have limited young people’s ability to socialize outside of school.

There was a sharp decrease in the percentage of students who had tried nitrous oxide (known as laughing gas). Only 3% of students had tried it in 2021, down 2.8 percentage points from 2018. The proportion of secondary school students who had tried glue and solvents fell by 2.2 percentage points to 6, 8%, while cocaine use fell from 1.8% of students to 1.4%.

Reducing drug, alcohol and tobacco use can be positive for young people’s mental health and well-being. More than half of children who had used drugs in the past month recorded low levels of happiness during that time, compared with just 26% of those who had not smoked, drank alcohol or taken drugs.

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