Illegal Drugs, Tobacco and Alcohol


Pubs, bars and clubs contribute to community life and also generate valuable revenue to the economy. However alcohol misuse is a major cause of illness, injury and death.

Regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week increases the risk of developing a range of health conditions including cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure and mental illness, while the number of alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom has been consistently increasing since the early 1990s.

Alcohol misuse also has a social and economic impact on health and wellbeing, contributing to increased levels of crime and antisocial behaviour, such as vandalism and domestic abuse, as well as impacting on people’s economic circumstances, with studies identifying an association between alcohol misuse and unemployment.

The proportion of young people in the Wakefield district who “drink alcohol occasionally or regularly” increases with age. The Wakefield district Schools Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire (2016) reports 2% of Year 5 students regularly drank alcohol compared with 14% of Year 9 and 63% of Year 12 students.


The use of tobacco, including smoking and passive smoking, has long been known to have major negative impacts on health contributing to a range of medical conditions including lung and other types of cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and coronary heart disease. A medical study on smoking found that, on average, men who smoked throughout their lives died 10 years younger than those who had never smoked.

Around 1 in 5 of adults in the Wakefield district are smokers.  This is significantly higher than the England average. (Source: Active Peoples Survey)

The proportion of young people in the Wakefield district who smoke increases as they get older. The Wakefield district Schools Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire (2016) reported 3% of Year 9 students 14% of Year 12 smoked “occasionally or regularly.”

Smoking in pregnancy rates are improving but at a slower rate than in other areas. Wakefield has a significantly higher rate than the national average, and at 18.6% the rate remains one of the highest in the region.

People in routine and manual jobs have higher rates and smoking in pregnancy.

E-cigarettes / Vaping

E-cigarettes use, or vaping as its is also known,  has remained relatively stable in England since 2013, with a prevalence of around 5%. (Source: Smoking Toolkit Survey data)

Around 60% of e-cigarette users in England are smokers. (Source: Smoking Toolkit Survey data)

Use of e-cigarettes by people who have never smoked remains very rare. (Source: Smoking Toolkit Survey data)

Following an extensive evidence review Public Health England has concluded “vaping is around 95% safer for users than smoking.” There is however limited evidence on the long-term health impacts of e-cigarette use and a “cautionary approach” to their use is therefore recommended by a number of authorities. (Source: Public Health England)

Evidence suggests people who use e-cigarettes as a means to stop smoking are much more likely to be successful. The Royal College of Physicians highlight research that indicates that on average around half of all smokers who try to quit are successful, compared with around two-thirds of those who tried to quite using e-cigarettes as an aid.

Public Health England state “there is no evidence of harm to bystanders from exposure to e-cigarette vapour and the risks to their health are likely to be extremely low.”

Around 3 in 10 (27%) Year 9 and 4 in 10 (41%) Year 12 students in the Wakefield district state they have “at least tried e-cigarettes.” With less than 1 in 10 young people district reporting use e-cigarettes on occasional or regular basis.  (Source: Wakefield district Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire 2016)

Illegal Drugs

Illegal drug use can contribute to a range of social and health problems affecting drug users, their families and society as a whole.

It has been estimated illegal drug use is responsible for between 1,300 and 1,600 deaths a year in the UK, as well as contributing to a range of other physical and mental health problems.

The social impacts of illegal drug use can include an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour. Drug users are estimated to commit between a third and a half of all acquisitive crime.

Almost 1 in 5 (17%) Year 12 students in Wakefield state they have taken cannabis. (Source: Wakefield district Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire 2016)

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

New Psychoactive Substances, often incorrectly called legal highs, contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs.

Despite much media attentions NPS use in the Wakefield district is low with 1% of Year 9 students and 2% of Year 12 students reporting to have taken a NPS. (Source: Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire 2016)

Further Information

Adults and Alcohol (JSNA)

Smoking in Adults (JSNA)

Smoking in Children (JSNA)

Maternal Behaviours – including smoking in pregnancy (JSNA)

Smoking in England – Recent Statistics

E-cigarettes: An evidence update, Public Health England (2015) Public Health England