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Cigarettes and alcohol: less experimenting, more abstinence by Irish teens

Plus, a significant drop in illicit drug use has brought Irish teens in line with their European counterparts.

File photo
File photo
Image: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

IN THE 12 months prior to a European-wide survey, just 14 per cent of Irish teens had used cannabis, down from 33 per cent 17 years earlier.

The comprehensive research by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction also found that just 19 per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds in Ireland had ever used any illicit drugs. This was down from 37 per cent in 1995. Ireland was one of only a few countries where the proportion was lower last year than in the first survey of the the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (EPSAD) in 1995.

The UK was the other nation to see a significant decrease in the lifetime use of cannabis. In Ireland, only one in ten boys had used cannabis, with that dropping to just one in 20 when examining the use of the substance by girls in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Over their entire lifetime, 22 per cent of boys, and 15 per cent of girls have smoked or consumed hashish or marijuana.

However, about 40 per cent of the teens perceived it as “fairly easy” or “relatively easy” to track down cannabis for sale.

The lifetime use of cannabis, other illicit drugs and inhalants in Ireland was about the same as the average in Europe. The use of illicit drugs (other than cannabis) by teens has dropped by a fairly significant 10 per cent since 1995, bringing Irish teens in line with their European counterparts.

Ireland was in the lower category in terms of use of tranquillisers or sedatives with just three per cent admitting to taking them without prescription. Ireland also recorded drops in the use of ecstasy and inhalants.

Irish students also used less cigarettes than what was seen in other countries in the 30 days ahead of the survey. The rather big drops over the past 17 years has seen Ireland turn from a medium-to-high prevalence country to a low one. In fact, across all of Europe, the biggest drop between 1995 and 2011 (15 per cent) can be found among Irish boys. Less than half of the teens surveyed had ever tried a cigarette with just 14 per cent being regular smokers. Girls are still slightly more likely to smoke than boys.

The number of students completely abstaining from tobacco, alcohol and drugs has risen dramatically since 1995. Now, 18 per cent of the teens said they do not consume alcohol or illegal drugs or smoke cigarettes.

More: Irish teens drinking less often than European counterparts>

Download the full ESPAD report>

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