Prevalence of smoking among young people

School Based Lifestyle Survey of 14/15 year olds (Year 10 pupils)


Most of the national prevalence rates and surveys which include smoking questions exclude children or young adults. The West Sussex Public Health and Social Research Unit, working with local authorities and participating schools, have undertaken lifestyle surveys of year 10 pupils. The last available survey was conducted in 2014; this included questions on smoking status and whether their parents or guardians smoked.

The 2014 survey found that across West Sussex, 14% (n = 493) of young people in year 10 reported either occasional or regular smoking. This is lower that the prevalence of occasional or regular smoking in 2010 (23.8%, n = 809). The table below gives a breakdown of smoking categories by gender for the 2010 and 2014 survey years. The table illustrates that the proportion of never smokers has increased and the proportion of ex-smokers as well as occasional and regular smokers has decreased.

Lifestyle Survey (2010)

2010Numbers% of participants who answered this question
GirlsBoysTotal*GirlsBoysTotal
Never1,1191,2242,35365.5%73.1%69.3%
Given up1291032327.6%6.2%6.8%
Occasionally28721650316.8%12.9%14.8%
Regularly17313130610.1%7.8%9.0%
Total1,7081,6743,394---

Lifestyle Survey (2014)

2014Numbers% of participants who answered this question
GirlsBoysTotal*GirlsBoysTotal
Never1,5541,2872,86780.4%83.0%81.1%
Given up88771734.6%5.0%4.9%
Occasionally1891083079.8%7.0%8.7%
Regularly102771865.0%5.0%5.3%
Total1,9331,5493,533---
* total includes those who did not say if they were male or female
Source: West Sussex Public Health and Social Research Unit

Smoking behaviours in young people: what about YOUth Survey


In addition to local survey, the What About YOUth? (WAY) Survey is a new national study which aims to examine the health behaviours of young people across England. The study asked thousands of 15 year olds questions about subjects such as health, diet, exercise, bulling, alcohol, drugs and smoking. Data from the survey is currently available at county level.

15 year olds were identified as current smokers if they responded:

In the 2014/15 WAY survey, 10.6% of 15 year olds who responded to the survey in West Sussex were identified as “current smokers”. This was significantly higher than the proportion of 15 year olds who were current smokers in England (8.2%). In addition, 7.1% of 15 year olds in West Sussex were regular smokers; smoking one or more cigarettes per week. The proportion was again higher in West Sussex (7.1%) than in England (5.5%).

Further information about the WAY survey can be found on the HSCIC website.

Modelled synthetic estimates of smoking status for young people aged 11-15 and 16-17


In January 2015, synthetic estimates were produced to model smoking among young people at a local level using data from the Understanding Society survey (pooled data for years 2009-2012). These were produced because prevalence statistics are not routinely available at small geographical area levels.

The data presented below relates to estimates for never smokers, not current smokers (including never smokers and those who have tried smoking once or twice only), occasional smokers (occasional smoking is defined as smoking sometimes but not every week) and regular smokers (regular smoking is defined as smoking at least one cigarette every week).

Note. these are synthetic estimates developed to investigate the simultaneous influence of individual and area characteristics on smoking outcomes. Results reflect estimated prevalence based on socio-demographic profiles of geographical areas. They may not reflect actual smoking prevalence.

Furthermore, the Understanding Society survey on which these estimates are based uses specific criteria for defining an ‘occasional smoker’ and a ‘regular smoker’ which may not match that of other surveys such as the Smoking Drinking and Drug Use survey. The table shows that there are large confidence intervals for these estimates and as such any interpretation should be treated with caution.

Modelled Prevalence of Smoking among Young People in the Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG Region

11-15 year olds16-17 year olds
Estimated prevalence95% confidence intervalEstimated prevalence95% confidence intervals
Never smokers88.9%78.2 to 96.9%76.7%54.3 to 92.0%
Never smoked or tried smoking once or twice only95.1%86.5 to 99.4%79.0%46.8 to 96.1%
Occasional smokers1.8%0.3 to 4.4%7.3%1.5 to 20.2%
Regular smokers3.1%0.6 to 6.7%14.6%4.1 to 33.6%
Source: Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth; Geography and Environment, University of Southampton