Alcohol use, cigarette smoking, vaping, and association with number of sexual partners: questionnaire survey of 509 young, multi-ethnic, inner city students
There are few recent data on the prevalence of risky behaviours in inner city, multi-ethnic teenagers. In Autumn 2016 we conducted a questionnaire survey of young Further Education college students as part of the NIHR funded “Test n Treat” feasibility trial of rapid on-site chlamydia/gonorrhoea tests. We examined the prevalence of reported alcohol use and smoking including vaping (using electronic cigarettes), and explored whether these behaviours were related to numbers of sexual partners.
Sexually active students aged 16-24 were invited to complete a confidential electronic questionnaire on lifestyle and sexual behaviour and to provide self-taken genitourinary samples.
The mean age of the 509 eligible participants was 18 years (range 16-24), 47% were male, 50% were of black ethnicity, and 54% reported ≥2 sexual partners in the past year. Almost half (48%) reported getting drunk in the past month, 33% smoked cigarettes and 8% had vaped. Students with multiple sexual partners were more likely than those without to report getting drunk in the past month (54%, 144/268 versus 42% 94/223, Relative Risk 1.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.5) but this did not apply to smoking or vaping. Male students were more likely than female students to report ≥2 sexual partners in the past year (67%, 157/236 versus 45%, 118/263 RR 1.5, 1.3 to 1.7) but this did not apply to other risky behaviours.
We found high rates of risky behaviour in this hard to reach group. The main limitation, common to other similar studies, is that this was reported behaviour. Findings highlight the need to introduce compulsory sex and relationships education in secondary schools, and education about the adverse effects of alcohol and smoking. This should also be done opportunistically in general practice.