Objectives: To explore ethnic variations in drug, tobacco and alcohol use and their correlation with other factors which operate through peer, familial and religious influences.
Design: Semi-structured interviews with 132 12-13-year-old young people from four ethnic groups attending secondary schools in two inner London boroughs and a follow-up interview completed approximately 17 months later.
Results: The data was analysed using chi-square and McNemar tests. Familial, religious and peer influence closely correlated with ethnicity. Bangladeshi young people showed lower levels of peer and higher levels of religious and familial involvement and lower levels of substance use. White young people reported higher levels of peer, lower levels of religious and familial involvement, and a higher level of substance use. Black African and Black Caribbean young people lay between the two extremes.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that young people with lower levels of familial and religious influence, or higher levels of peer influence, have higher levels of substance consumption than other young people. Health education initiatives need to promote personal decision-making skills within the context of the young people's individual culture. Cultural diversity should be recognised within local health education needs assessment.