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

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

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

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

The research found that 21% of 15-year-old girls admitted to currently using e-cigarettes in 2021, more than double what NHS Digital recorded in 2018 (10%). The percentage of girls who vaped 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 percentage of pupils who reported being smokers dropped from 5% in 2018 to 3% in 2021, a record high. Less than one in eight secondary school students (12%) had ever smoked a cigarette in 2021, the lowest number since comparable records began in 1982.

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

However, the study also showed progress in reducing drug and beverage consumption. Only 18% of 11- to 15-year-olds in England said they had ever taken drugs in 2021, down from 24% in 2018, according to new data released by NHS Digital. Only 40% of last year’s schoolchildren said they ever drank alcohol, down from 44% in 2018 and 2016.

The data shows that more sociable secondary school pupils – those who met people most frequently outside the home or at school – were more likely to have tried illegal drugs, alcohol, or smoked than those who had rarely seen people in the past month.


Just under one in five (19%) of those who met people outside the home or school every day had taken drugs in the past month. This compares with 8% of those who socialized away from home a few times a week and 5% of those who only met people away from home or school once a week. Only 2% of those who hadn’t met anyone in the past month had taken drugs.

Statistics suggest Covid-19 may have played a role in the decline in drug use as restrictions in early 2021 may have limited the opportunity for young people to socialize outside of school.

There was a sharp 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 compared to 2018. The percentage of secondary school pupils who had tried glue and solvents dropped by 2.2 percentage points to 6.8. %, while cocaine use fell from 1.8% of pupils to 1.4%.

The decline in drug use, drinking and smoking can mark a positive aspect for the mental health and well-being of young people. More than half of the children who had taken drugs in the past month experienced low levels of happiness during that time, compared to only 26% of those who had not smoked, drank alcohol or taken drugs.

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