Young People Still Vulnerable To Drink And Drugs

Chief Medical Officer welcomes findings from young people’s survey on smoking, alcohol and drugs.


Chief Medical Officer welcomes findings from young people’s survey on smoking, alcohol and drugs.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has cautiously welcomed findings from the latest report on a young persons survey on attitudes to drinking alcohol and substance abuse.

On considering the report, Mr McBride said that there is “no room for complacency.”

The report published by the Department of Health showed that since 2000 there was:

  • a significant decline in both the proportion of young people who have ever smoked,
  • in the proportion of current young smokers,
  • and in the proportion of young people who drink, get drunk and use drugs.

Check the report here:

This trend has remained consistent in the most recent survey.

Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention, Cancer Focus NI, welcomed the report and said: “We welcome the latest figures from the Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes survey. With 4% of young people now smoking, it consolidates progress shown in previous surveys and is well down from the 15% reported 20 years ago.

“Prevention and stop smoking services have always been key elements of Cancer Focus NI’s strategy. We have been working diligently in primary, secondary and third level education as well as in the wider community but there is still work to do and we will continue to focus on the most deprived schools.

“The success to date is thanks to the Department of Health’s Tobacco Strategy, implementation led by the Public Health Agency, and the leadership and strategic vision shown by Cancer Focus NI over 50 years.

“Our prevention and stop smoking strategies with young people will eventually achieve Cancer Focus NI’s vision of a tobacco free society. However, it is disappointing that this report shows 18% of young people are still subjected to adults smoking in the family car.

“Cancer Focus NI calls on the Minister to seek immediate Assembly approval to implement the legislation restricting smoking in cars carrying children. Draft regulations were consulted on as long ago as 2017.”

McBride Says The Report Is A Welcome Indication Of Young People Taking Less Risks With Alcohol And Substance Abuse.

Dr McBride added: “This is a welcome indication of the progress that has been made in preventing a range of key risk-taking behaviour among our children and young people.

“It shows that the actions we have collectively taken to date have been broadly successful in supporting young people to live healthy lives.

“But there is no room for complacency. Smoking, alcohol and drug misuse are key public health issues. For example, smoking remains the main cause of preventable illness and death in Northern Ireland and kills around 2,400 people here each year.

“In recent years there have been a number of key legislative developments which have helped prevent children from accessing tobacco products, including a ban on the display of tobacco products, a ban on selling tobacco from vending machines, and new offences and penalties for those who sell tobacco to children.

“These have been supported by programmes which raise children and young people’s awareness of the harms caused by tobacco. Additionally, the Public Health Agency commission youth focused smoking reduction programmes and promote smoking cessation services at a variety of youth targeted venues.”

Whilst the numbers of children and young people reporting regular use of e-cigarettes remains low, the Department of Health continues to monitor the use of these products by children and young people.

Draft legislation is progressing aiming to restrict the age of sale of e-cigarettes to those over 18.

The Chief Medical Officer added: “A range of service are also in place to prevent alcohol and drug use among our children and young people, and to provide treatment and support to those who come to harm from their own, or someone else’s, alcohol or drug use.

“But again I believe we can do more and we will shortly be bringing forward a new substance strategy for consultation.

This will have a strong focus on improving our collective approach to effective preventative measures, and on providing early intervention where appropriate.”