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World No Tobacco Day

Monday, 31 May 2021

Australia’s largest social norms-based drug and alcohol pilot program for secondary students is busting myths around the prevalence of drug and alcohol use in young people in a bid to reduce risky behaviour.

Since 2018 more than 5000 teens across NSW and SA have participated in the ‘Reality Now’ pilot program, conducted by Life Ed with support from nib foundation, which aims to prevent drug and alcohol misuse in young people by correcting misperceptions about the attitudes and behaviours of their peers.

Released on World No Tobacco Day (May 31), data from the study has revealed that overwhelmingly, students overestimate their peers use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.

When asked to estimate the use of tobacco among their peers, the survey of more than 5000 students from years 7 through to 11 found that students assumed 60 per cent of their peers were using this drug at varying levels. However, in reality around 15 per cent of students reported using tobacco.

Similarly, the survey showed that over 50 per cent of students thought their peers were using cannabis, when in fact more than 86 per cent of students said they never used this drug.

When it comes to alcohol use, students believed around one in five of their peers were drinking regularly, much higher than the self-reported rates of 6 per cent.

At the heart of the approach is a live, interactive survey tool which captures student perceptions of their classmates’ behaviours and attitudes about using tobacco, cannabis and alcohol, as well as their own behaviours and attitudes.

The anonymous survey is completed in-session by students on a digital device, with questions designed to draw comparisons to their results compared to national norms.

Despite these promising trends in declining drug and alcohol use, Life Ed NSW/ACT CEO Jonathon Peatfield warns that there is still work to be done, with vaping among young people a growing concern.

What we can see from this data is that overwhelmingly, young people are making great choices about their health and safety and choosing not to use tobacco and other drugs.