Young People in Essex Say Low Cost of Cannabis Is Making it More Popular than Cigarettes

A new report launched this week by Healthwatch Essex has found that young people in the county report cannabis being smoked more frequently than cigarettes, often because of its affordability.

The YEAH!3 report, which completes a trilogy of pieces of research which look at health and social care for young people in Essex, found that a fifth of the participants say cannabis use is prevalent within their peer group. The young people Healthwatch spoke to reported it being common practice at house parties and said that the affordability of the drug was a major factor in making it more popular than other recreational activities.

A number of the participants said that it was difficult to stop using cannabis once it became habitual but many felt that they were not as well informed about the risks, as they are about smoking. Approximately 75% of participants felt they had not received enough information on drugs and alcohol to make informed decisions and keep themselves safe.

Dr David Sollis, CEO of Healthwatch Essex, said: “It is our responsibility to ensure that young voices across the county and their experiences of the health and social care issues that matter to them are heard.

“This particular finding was quite a surprising one from the report. The perception of young people that cannabis is now more popular and considered more desirable than cigarettes, often because of cost, could help to inform some of the public health messaging that may be useful in bringing about change.

“During this piece of engagement we heard young people say that they picked up lots of information about drugs and alcohol from reality TV and entertainment shows. Those who had formalised education on the topics said the sessions which patronised or used shock and fear tactics didn’t deter them – in fact they introduced a stigma of shame and criminality that would prevent them seeking support. But sessions which were introduced early in their education, included balanced information of the risks and how to keep safe, and hearing from a person in recovery from substance misuse, were most helpful.

“Our hope is that these voices can help shape some of the best practice happening in schools around the region.”

This particular report engaged 717 young people over a six-week period and the trilogy of reports completes three years of engagement with nearly 2000 young people across Essex. To read the report visit our library.