YPBAS Teen Survey

Posted 2nd October 2020 by Dave Cross
Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has welcomed the findings from the latest “Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey” (YPBAS). The survey was conducted by The Central Survey Unit of Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Importantly, the numbers of children and young people reporting regular use of e-cigarettes remains low.

Welcoming the findings, McBride cautioned: “There is no room for complacency.”

YPBAS is a school-based survey carried out among 11-16 year olds. It is commissioned jointly by a number of government departments and includes questions on a wide range of topics. This is the seventh time the survey has been conducted and represents an overview of the smoking, alcohol and drugs responses in 2019.

A total of 8,118 children completed the survey, split across two questionnaires - Version A was completed by 3,892 children and version B by 4,226 children.

The report published by the Department of Health showed that since 2000 there has been a significant decline in both the proportion of young people who have ever smoked, in the proportion of current young smokers, and in the proportion of young people who drink, get drunk and use drugs. This trend has remained consistent in the most recent survey.


  • One-in-ten young people reported ever having smoked (10%)
  • 4% indicated that they currently smoked - a decrease since 2000
  • Boys (11%) were more likely to report ever having smoked than girls (8%)
  • Young people living in the most deprived quintile were almost twice as likely to ever smoke


  • The majority of young people (95%) had heard of e-cigarettes
  • One fifth had used an e-cigarette at least once
  • Older children were more likely to report ever having used
  • A small proportion (3%) report using e-cigarettes on a regular basis (at least once a week)
  • It isn’t reported, but the number of daily vapers is likely to be considerably less than that

McBride added: “This is a welcome indication of the progress that has been made in preventing a range of key risk taking behaviour among our children and young people, and it shows that the actions we have collectively taken to date have been broadly successful in supporting young people to live healthy lives. However, there is no room for complacency. Smoking, alcohol and drug misuse are key public health issues, for example smoking remains the main cause of preventable illness and death in Northern Ireland and kills around 2,400 people here each year.


“In recent years there have been a number of key legislative key legislative developments which have helped prevent children from accessing tobacco products, including a ban on the display of tobacco products, a ban on selling tobacco from vending machines, and new offences and penalties for those who sell tobacco to children. These have been supported by programmes which raise children and young people’s awareness of the harms caused by tobacco. Additionally, the Public Health Agency commission youth focused smoking reduction programmes and promote smoking cessation services at a variety of youth targeted venues.”


  • Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitude Survey 2019 – [link]

Image by H. Hach from Pixabay

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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