Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS): Smoking Report 2015

Report presenting the smoking findings from the 2015 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS).

1 Introduction and background

This report presents the findings on smoking from the 2015 wave of the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey. The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland.

Survey background and purpose

Survey background

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey ( SALSUS) is the continuation of a long established series of national surveys on smoking, drinking and drug use. These were carried out jointly in Scotland and England between 1982 and 2000, to provide a national picture of young peoples' smoking (from 1982), drinking (from 1990), and drug use (from 1998) within the context of other lifestyle, health and social factors. Since 2002, Scotland has developed its own, more tailored, survey known as SALSUS.

Survey purpose

SALSUS measures progress towards Scottish Government targets for smoking and drug use, and is used to inform the Scottish Government's priority of addressing harmful drinking among young people.

The survey series also provides local prevalence rates for smoking, drinking and drug use across Alcohol and Drug Partnerships ( ADPs), local authorities and NHS Boards. SALSUS data are used in a number of the ADP national core indicators, which allows the ADPs to monitor their progress against a common set of outcomes. ADPs and their community planning partners make extensive use of SALSUS data in local needs assessments and in developing their strategic priorities.

Policy background

There has been a decline in the proportion of adults who smoke in Scotland: from 28% in 2003 to 21% in 2015 [2] . However, it remains the primary preventable cause of ill health and premature death. It is also strongly linked with area deprivation.

Since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, it has overseen a range of measures aimed at reducing smoking including:

  • legislation to ban tobacco advertising (2002)
  • a ban on smoking in public places (2006)
  • an increase in the age for tobacco sales from 16 to 18 (2007)
  • the overhaul of tobacco sale and display law, including banning the display of cigarettes in shops and banning sales from vending machines (2010)
  • awareness raising campaigns
  • continued investment in NHS smoking cessation services
  • further control of tobacco and e-cigarettes in the 2016 Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Bill (still to be implemented).

The Scottish Government published its current tobacco control strategy, Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation: A Tobacco Control Strategy for Scotland, in March 2013. This set a target to reduce smoking prevalence to 5% by 2034. Progress towards the target is measured on an annual basis. Previously, data on adult smoking prevalence came from the Scottish Household Survey but from July 2016 data is sourced from the Scottish Health Survey.


SALSUS is a self-completion survey administered by teachers in a mixed ability class, under exam conditions. In the past, the survey has been completed on paper, but for the first time in the 2015 wave, half of the sample completed the survey online [3] .

A random, nationally representative sample of S2 and S4 pupils in school was selected with classes as the primary sampling unit. All local authority and independent schools in Scotland were eligible for inclusion in the sample, with the exception of special schools. Fieldwork was completed between September 2015 and January 2016. A total of 13,607 S2 and 11,697 S4 pupils responded.

Throughout the report, pupils in S2 are referred to as '13 year olds' and S4 pupils are referred to as '15 year olds' for ease. It should be borne in mind that some pupils within these categories may be slightly older or younger.

Some pupils did not answer each question. Where answers are missing, these have been excluded from the analysis and so charts and tables that describe the same population may have varying bases. When differences between estimates are specifically commented on in the report, these differences are statistically significant to the level of 0.05.

Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Robust subgroup analyses are not possible for 13 year old regular smokers as the base size is now so low, hence limited comparisons, such as gender differences are presented.

Finally, it is important to note that, while there are associations between many of the behaviours explored in this report, conclusions about causality cannot be drawn.

Changes to the questionnaire

One smoking question was removed and two were amended. No new smoking questions were added. For detail on smoking question changes see Appendix A. For further details on other question changes and survey methodology see the SALSUS 2015 Technical Report [4] and full 2015 Questionnaire [5] .


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