Young people turn away from addictive and illegal substances

The stereotype that young people are impressionable, naive and easily corrupted by the thought of smoking or doing drugs to ‘look cool’ or because of peer pressure has taken a major setback in the light of some recent research into smoking trends and views on drugs among young people.

Young smokers

Research carried out by Cancer Research UK’s health behaviour research centre at University College London surveyed 16 and 17 year olds before and after the legal age limit for smoking was raised to 18 in 2007.

The results showed that the new law had made a positive impact on the smoking habits of under 18 year olds, with the proportion of 16 and 17 year olds smoking dropping from 24% to 17%. This is an encouraging statistic, as according to Cancer Research UK, 8 out of 10 smokers begin smoking before the age of 19.

Jean King, director of Cancer Research UK’s tobacco control, said “We would like to have seen an even bigger drop in the number of young smokers but any measure that helps stop young people from smoking is a step in the right direction.”

Young people’s perception of drugs

An evidence review published by the UK Drug Policy Commission has found that young people are more likely to have negative views of drug use than older people. 87% of 16 to 19 year olds in the study “expressed negative views about drug addiction”, a significantly higher figure than the 64% of those aged of 65.

Furthermore, the review showed that 21 out of 23 recreational drug users between the age of 16-19 in London felt that more stigmatised drugs, such as heroin, are “dirty”, “evil” and “disgusting”, with one saying that he’d “never do that [inject heroin]“.

It’s an interesting piece of research, given what appears to be a common held belief that young people are amongst the worst when it comes to drugs use, or are more susceptible to addiction. The report concluded that the importance of teaching young people about the dangers of drugs use should be focussed on developing an understanding of drugs and their long term effects, not on simply “‘scaring them straight’”.

A recent poll started by one of our members asking “Should we legalise drugs in a bid to cut crime and improve health?” reveals that 78% of our members who voted agreed that drugs should be legalised in this country. To read the accompanying debate about legalising drugs see the discussion Legalisation of drugs in the UK.

If you’re interested in the opinions of our members on smoking and/or drugs use then you may find some relevant discussions in our General Discussion or Debate and Discussion forums. For other health related issues, then  our Health and Relationships forum is a good place to start.

Source articles: Under 18 ban sees fall in number of teenage smokers and Young people more likely to hold negative views about drug addiction.