Students find it easier to obtain alcohol than cigarettes – Study

According to the latest ESPAD survey almost three-quarters of Maltese students perceive alcohol as easily obtainable while two out of three see cigarettes as not difficult to get. Half the students used online gaming sites while one in three said that cannabis was quite accessible.

These were some of the results which came out of the ESPAD survey in 2019 which was carried out in 35 European countries. Up to 3,043 students from schools all over Malta and Gozo participated in the Malta 2019 study.


The study reported that students perceive alcohol to be “fairly” or “very easy”. In fact, figures show that beer is the easiest to obtain by 75%, followed by 72% wine, 67% premixed drinks, 60% spirits, and 59% ciders.

When asked which alcoholic beverages had been widely consumed in the last 30 days , 40% of respondents said spirits and 40% wine, followed by 33% beer, 31% premixed drinks and 16% cider. Moreover, the survey questioned students about the last drinking occasion, and 21% stated at home, 19% at a bar or pub, 14% and/or in a club. Four out of five students reported that they have consumed alcohol in their lifetime, whilst 73% consumed alcohol during the 12 months and 48% in the last 30 days.

With regards to gender differences in alcohol consumption, a higher percentage of girls than boys have been intoxicated in their lifetime (36% vs. 29%).

Cigarettes and e-Cigarettes

The ESPAD study has shown that 57% of students in Malta believed that it would be “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain cigarettes. Some 22% of students have smoked cigarettes during their lifetime and 10% had smoked in the last 30 days, with 7% smoking less than one cigarette a day. When it comes to e-cigarettes 21% of students had used e-cigarettes in their lifetime. The study unveils that 7% of students, had smoked their first cigarette and 2% had started to smoke on a daily basis before the age of 14. With regards to e-cigarette use, 5% of students smoked their first e-cigarette and 1% smoked e-cigarettes daily at the age 13 or younger. Girls were more likely than boys to have smoked in their lifetime resulting to 24% vs. 21% respectively.

Drugs and Other Substances

A relatively high percentage of students thought that it would be “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain cannabis (33%), cocaine (20%), tranquillizers or sedatives (19%), and ecstasy (15%). The most frequently reported substances other than alcohol, cigarettes and e-cigarettes first used at the age of 13 or younger were cannabis at 2% and inhalants also at 2%. The report said that the use of a range of illicit drugs (cannabis, LSD, amphetamines, crack, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and GHB) is less widespread than the use of alcohol and cigarettes/e-cigarettes, with 12% of students reporting the use of any of the listed illicit drugs during their lifetime. Other substances which were frequently reported as having ever been used were: cannabis at 12%, and inhalants at 5%. This was followed by alcohol together with pills to get high (4%), synthetic cannabinoids (4%), tranquillizers or sedatives without a prescription (3%), painkillers to get high (3%), whilst cocaine and ecstasy amounted to 2% and 1% respectively.

Sex differences in the use of other substances examined were not large.

Social Media Use

The respondents in the survey reported using social media within the last 7 days; 91% stated that they used social media on a school day and 97% reported they use social media on a non-school day. A relatively high percentage of students reported social media-use four or more hours in the last 7 days. This amounted to 38% on a school day and 68% on a non-school day. The study has seen a higher percentage of girls than boys using social media for 4 or more hours on a school day (45% vs. 31%), and on a non-school day (75% vs. 60%).


Over half of the students reported gaming within the past 30 days with 66% reported gaming on a school day and 78% reported gaming on a non-school day. Students reported gaming on an average of 3 days during the last 7 days. Moreover, 13% of students reported gaming for 4 or more hours on a school day, and 30% reported gaming for 4 or more hours on a non-school day during the last 30 days. Boys have reported spending a higher average number of days gaming in the last 7 days than girls (4 days vs. 2days). Boys also spent more hours gaming than girls, with boys more likely to spend 4 or more hours gaming both on a school day (19% vs. 7%) and on a non-school day (46% vs. 13%) in the last 30 days.


14% of students reported gambling in the preceding year. The gambling activities most frequently engaged in within the last 12 months were cards or dice at 7%, followed by lotteries at 7%, sports betting at 4% and slot machines at 3%. The rate of gambling in the preceding year is higher for boys than girls at 17% and 12% respectively.