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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Maryam Kara

Girls in UK drinking, vaping and smoking more than boys, study shows

Girls in the UK are drinking, smoking and vaping more than boys, a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has discovered.

The report called Health Behaviour In School-Aged Children flagged that girls were found to be smoking, vaping and drinking more than boys across a broad pattern of behaviour. It also warned that vaping has replaced smoking as a dangerous recreational activity amongst school-children.

It revealed that across England and Scotland, two-fifths of girls have vaped by the age of 15 - a figure higher than in other countries such as France, Austria, Germany, Albania, Spain, Canada and Norway.

Dr Jo Inchley, international co-ordinator for the study, said: “The big concerns are around vaping, but also there's some evidence that alcohol use might be going up again, amongst girls in England in particular.”

WHO examined data from 280,000 children aged 11, 13 and 15 from 44 countries who were asked about their use of cigarettes, vapes and alcohol in one of the largest studies of its kind.

It found that some 53 per cent of girls aged 15 have drunk alcohol in England, compared to 39 per cent of their male counterparts in the past 30 days.

Together, both 15-year-old boys (17 per cent) and girls (30 per cent) have vaped more in the past month in England than in other countries including Ireland, Canada, Iceland, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Portugal.

However, Dr Inchley noted that cannabis use has been more common amongst boys. Despite it declining in recent years, and certainly in Scotland, she added the decline has not been seen amongst regular users unlike experimental users, especially with boys.

"Compared with other countries, we're still relatively high and 15-year-old boys in Scotland have the highest levels of cannabis use across the study as a whole,” she said.

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, warned that the widespread use of harmful substances among children poses “a serious public health threat".

He added: "Considering that the brain continues to develop well into a person's mid-20s, adolescents need to be protected from the effects of toxic and dangerous products.

"Unfortunately, children today are constantly exposed to targeted online marketing of harmful products, while popular culture, like video games, normalises them.”

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