Irish teenagers drink and smoke less than European peers, study shows

Almost 40 per cent spend over six hours daily on social media at weekends/holidays

Alcohol use among Irish 16-year-olds is below the average for 35 European countries, including 25 in the EU, as is cigarette smoking. However their figures for illicit drug use, while low, are slightly above the European average for use of drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and crack.

The figures are provided in the latest European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs which took place in spring and autumn last year and involved 99,647 students.

It found that 31 per cent of Irish 16-year-olds had smoked (33 per cent boys/30 per cent girls), while 14 per cent had smoked in the pervious 30 days (16 per cent boys, 13 per cent girls).

The average for the 35 countries was 40 per cent for those who had smoked and 20 per cent for those who had done so in the previous 30 days.


Similarly with alcohol, of the Irish 16-year-olds 72 per cent (73 per cent boys/72 per cent girls) had taken a drink, with 41 per cent (42 per cent boys/ 41 per cent girls) having done so in the previous 30 days. Of the Irish teenagers, 16 per cent (15 per cent boys/17 per cent girls) said they had been drunk, with slightly more girls than boys saying they had been.

The European average was higher in two instances, with 79 per cent saying they had taken a drink and the 47 per cent who said they had done so in the previous 30 days. However 13 per cent of European 16 year olds said they had been drunk, three per cent lower than their Irish equivalents.

Far and away the most popular tipple among the Irish teenagers is beer followed by cider.

When it came to illegal drug use, 20 per cent (25 per cent boys/15 per cent girls) of Irish 16-year-olds said they had taken some. Of those, 19 per cent (25 per cent boys/15 per cent girls) had smoked cannabis while 2.8 per cent (3.7 per cent boys/2.0 per cent girls) had tried ecstasy.

In the 35 countries surveyed, 17 per cent of 16 year olds said they had tried illicit drugs, 16 per cent tried cannabis and 2.3 per cent ecstasy.

When it came to cocaine and crack use, 3.3 per cent (4.6 boys/2.0 girls) among the Irish teenagers said they had tried cocaine, while 1.8 per cent (2.4 boys/1.2 girls) had tried crack. The European average was 1.9 per cent for cocaine and 1.1 per cent for crack.

On social media, 94 per cent of all the 16-year-olds said they had used it in the previous seven days, for an average of 2 to 3 hours per school day and over 6 hours on a non-school day.

Of the Irish, 37 per cent (36 per cent boys/37 per cent girls) of 16-year-olds spend 2 to 3 hours per school day on social media while, on a non school day, 39 per cent (34 per cent boys/44 per cent girls) can spend more than 6 hours on social media.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times