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French teenagers are less interested in alcohol, cannabis and tobacco

The consumption of all three substances is down considerably compared to 2017, a new study shows, although the use of e-cigarettes is up

People aged 17 in France are less likely in 2022 to have tried alcohol, cannabis or cigarettes, compared to those in 2017 Pic: Solid photos / Shutterstock

French 17-year-olds are less interested in alcohol, cannabis and tobacco than five years ago, a new study of 23,000 teenagers has revealed. 

It found more 17-year-olds have never consumed alcohol. Their use of tobacco and cannabis has also dropped.

There are also marked differences between 17-year-olds in and outside education, according to the study*, which surveyed 23,000 youngsters and was carried out by the Observatoire français des drogues et des tendances addictives (OFDT).

Key findings of the study, which compared 2022 with five years earlier, include:

Tobacco

  • Fewer than half (46.5%) said they had smoked a cigarette, compared with 59% in 2017
  • Only 15.6% of people aged 17 said they regularly smoked (at least one per day) compared to 25.1% five years earlier
  • 43.5% of people aged 17 who are no longer in school smoke at least one cigarette a day, compared with 22% of those at technical colleges and 10.1% at lycée.

Alcohol

  • Fewer than one-in-five (19.4%) had never tried alcohol by 2022, compared with 14.3% in 2017
  • 18.3% of 17-year-olds not in education consume alcohol regularly, compared to 5.9% of pupils at lycée or technical college.

Cannabis

  • 29.9% said they had tried cannabis in 2022, compared to 39.1% who said the same in 2017.

For the first time, the Observatory looked at cannabidiol (CBD) use and found that 17.1% of 17-year-olds had already used CBD, and 14% had used it in the last 12 months.

Overall, the OFDT said the study showed “a profound change in the perception of these uses, linked to the ‘denormalisation’ of tobacco and the change in the status of alcohol, which is no longer systematically perceived as an essential part of partying in the eyes of the new generations of adolescents".

Read also: Why France’s alcohol-free cocktail boom is ‘not just a trend’

Covid hangover?

The observatory said that this was a “favourable development in terms of public health", and said that the Covid health crisis may have had a positive effect on the results.

It also said that, rather positively, young people’s declining “experimentation” due to the pandemic had not appeared to lead them to feel that they now have to “catch up…for the moment”. 

Instead, these “lower levels of use…seem to be permanently embedded in the behaviour of the adolescent population".

However, the study also shows how despite all of this, the overall general mental health of teenagers in France has decreased dramatically.

E-cigarette use on the rise

In contrast, the use of e-cigarettes has risen between 2017 and 2022. 

  • Last year, almost 60% of 17-year-olds (56.9%) had already experimented with electronic cigarettes 
  • This compares to 52.4% in 2017
  • In 2022, 6.2% of 17-year-olds were regular vapers, compared to 1.9% in 2017. This is an increase of 226%.

The OFDT said that these increases had been "driven by a very clear increase in female consumption", and said that the use of e-cigarettes now “exceeds that of tobacco cigarettes” for the first time. 

Read also: We should ban e-cigarette flavours, says new official report in France

Read also: Smokers trying to quit in France should not be offered vapes to help

It also said that the age at which many first start to vape is young and had dropped slightly, to precisely 15 on average in 2022, compared to 15.4 years in 2017.

*The ESCAPAD survey was carried out in March 2022, among young people of both sexes aged 17.4 on average, all of French nationality. 

It was an anonymous survey, based on a self-administered questionnaire, administered on citizenship day, Journée défense et citoyenneté (JDC). A total of 22,430 questionnaires were completed and analysed.

Read also

Put up no-smoking signs outside French schools, says anti-cancer group

Is it illegal to smoke while driving in France? 

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