Drinking and getting drunk is not an automatic rite of passage for young people in Lancashire according to a recently published study.
Commissioned by Trading Standards North West, the study looked into the smoking and drinking habits of over 7,000 young people aged 14 -17 across the North West.
The main aim of the research was to find out specific details about how and where young people get hold of alcohol and tobacco, to help better planning of services that reduce the uptake of smoking and drinking.
2,185 young people from Lancashire responded to the survey. The study involved distributing a questionnaire to schools across the county, targeting pupils between the age of 14 and 17. The survey follows on from similar studies carried out every two years across the North West since 2005.
The results report significant reductions in young people’s drinking and smoking behaviours and demonstrate that the work to tackle this complex issue is starting to show significant gains:
• Nearly half of young people who completed the survey (41%) say that they never drink alcohol – the figure in 2005 was just 13%.
• Year-on-year reductions in Lancashire of young people claiming to buy their own alcohol. However 60% of young people who drink alcohol say that their parents or guardians buy or give alcohol to them.
• The percentage of young people claiming to drink alcohol at least once a week has fallen to 11%, from 16% in 2013, and the number of young people who say they drink just to get drunk is down to 25% this year, from 44% in 2013.
• There has been a significant reduction in young people acting violently or being involved in a fight whilst drunk, down to 12% from 23% in 2013. There’s also a reduction in those who say they drink on the streets or in parks. One in 20 (5%) say they drink on the streets, down from 40% in 2007. However 49% say they drink mostly at home when parents are in and 15% drink at ‘drinking dens’ or ‘party houses’.
In terms of smoking, only one in ten (11%) of young people surveyed said they currently smoke, down from one in six (16%) in 2013. 67% say that they have never tried smoking, an increase of 8% since 2013. However most young smokers claim to have started at 13 or 14 years old.
A third of young people (37%) say they have tried e-cigarettes, with 17% saying they have used shisha at least once or twice.
Young people who smoke were then asked where they get their cigarettes or tobacco from. The most common response is that they get them from brothers, sisters, or friends who are over 18. Nearly two-fifths of respondents who smoke buy their cigarettes or tobacco from off-licences, newsagents and supermarkets. The proportion of young people claiming to buy illicit cigarettes has risen slightly for each of the different sources.
A worrying new finding for 2015 is that more than one in twenty of the young people surveyed say they have tried New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), so called ‘legal highs’, at least once.
County Councillor Azhar Ali, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “I am very encouraged by the results of the recent study, which shows that Lancashire is heading in the right direction and we will continue to support our young people to choose not to drink. Heavy drinking should never be seen as a component of a normal night out, at any age.
“Trading Standards officers have an important role in engaging with businesses, young people and parents on alcohol and tobacco issues. They also work with like-minded partner organisations to combat young people’s drinking.
“However, I am disappointed that well over half of young people who drink alcohol say that their own parents supply them with it. It is also concerning that over one in twenty young people are putting their health at risk by experimenting with New Psychoactive Substances.”
Paul Noone, head of Lancashire County Council Trading Standards, said: “I’m pleased that the findings of this study reflect that it is becoming commonplace for Lancashire’s young people to choose to drink little or no alcohol. This is a positive choice which they make for many reasons, possibly by witnessing the negative effects of alcohol on others, by choosing to participate in activities where drinking alcohol rarely plays a role, or by avoiding certain environments.
“Whilst the study clearly shows that the work we have conducted over many years in restricting the supply of alcohol and tobacco to young people is having a positive impact, we need to continue to strengthen our work with partner agencies to ensure we continue to reduce the consequences of drinking and smoking on young people’s health. Parents of course play a vitally important role in this too.
“The use of New Psychoactive Substances by young people is of great concern, due to the consequences that even using them once can have. We are working with other agencies to tackle this problem.”
You can find details of who to contact for help or advice about alcohol and drug misuse at www.lancashire.gov.uk – search ‘alcohol and drug misuse’.