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The Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Survey (SDD) among secondary school children in England provides national estimates for the proportions of young people (aged 11–15) who smoke, drink alcohol or take illegal drugs. The survey findings are used to monitor progress towards government targets for reducing smoking and alcohol misuse among teenagers. Until October 2007, it was illegal to sell tobacco products to children under the age of 16 in England. Evidence from SDD 2006 showed that despite this, children under the age of 16 could easily obtain cigarettes from shops and vending machines. From October 2007, it became illegal to sell cigarettes to young people under the age of 18. SDD 2008 is the first survey post implementation of this legislation which can provide empirical evidence against which to assess the impact of this legislative change upon young people’s ability to buy cigarettes; impact upon smoking prevalence and assess whether young people have changed how and where they obtain cigarettes. The Chief Medical Officer launched a public consultation on young people’s drinking, which advised that young people under the age of 16 should not drink alcohol because of the health risks associated with it. Evidence from previous SDD reports has shown a downward trend in the proportion of young people who have ever drunk alcohol; 61% in 2003, 54% in 2007. Results from the 2008 survey will monitor these trends and provide key estimates on young people’s alcohol consumption and behaviour.
A representative sample of pupils in school years 7 to 11, were drawn from all state-funded and independent secondary-level schools across England. A random probability sample of both schools and pupils within schools was selected for participation in SDD 2008 and 7798 pupils in 253 schools participated. Pupils completed a self-completion questionnaire which included detailed questions about smoking and drinking consumption, and general questions about relevant behaviours, attitudes and knowledge.
This is first report in the survey series to present nationally representative findings assessing the impact of regulating the sale of tobacco upon young people’s smoking behaviour. Trend data about alcohol intake and frequency of consumption will also be presented. The SDD 2008 findings are currently under embargo prior to publication in July 2009.
The survey is a key data resource in the planning of young people’s health services, education programmes and policy initiatives in England.