Iceland's Abuse

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past twenty years. Emma Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit. post

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense.

While the team offer advice and information on what has been found to work in Iceland, it’s up to individual communities to decide what to do in the light of their results. No other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. Occasionally, they do nothing.

In Iceland, the relationship between people and the state has allowed an effective national program.


Iceland's orderly introduction of "natural high" from athletics or similar performance activities simply give teens something else attractive to do.

I now look more kindly on Nike's slogan, we are all athletes, as something other than just marketing.

In my school district where dropout rates are high organized sports are often cited as the primary reason weaker students choose to stay in school.