Image of a distillery

Do you know the laws in the UK about drugs, alcohol and cigarettes? In this activity you will read about why these things are harmful and you will learn about the laws in the UK.


There are two types of drugs – legal drugs and illegal drugs.  Legal drugs are helpful for us, and we all use them. For example, we can buy aspirin or ibuprofen ‘over the counter’ for headaches or other pain, or we can get drugs with a prescription from our doctor.  You should never take a prescription drug, if you don’t have a prescription for it from your doctor because it could be dangerous.

Illegal drugs, on the other hand, are harmful for us, and can be addictive. If you start taking them it will be very difficult for you to stop. Some illegal drugs are more harmful than others. Class A drugs, such as heroin or crack cocaine, are the most harmful. They can damage your health, and they are very addictive. Some people become so addicted that they have to steal to get enough money to pay for the drug.  So drug taking leads them to a life of crime.

Class B drugs are not so addictive but are also harmful. An example is cannabis. It isn’t as addictive as class A drugs, but can cause health problems, and it can be dangerous if you have mental health problems.

Drugs and the law

If the police find you with a Class A drug in your pocket you could be sent to prison for up to 7 years. If you deal in Class A drugs (buy and sell them) you could go to prison for life. For cannabis you could get up to 5 years for possession (having it in your pocket), and 14 years for dealing.  Drug dealing is a more serious crime than drug taking.


Drinking a small amount of alcohol is fine and does not damage your health. The government recommends that women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol every day. (One unit is one medium glass of wine, or one pint – a big glass – of beer). Men should not drink more than 3 – 4 units a day.

But for many people alcohol can be a problem. Drinking too much alcohol can make people behave violently, for example, they start fighting in the street.  It can also cause health problems, such as damage to your liver or your stomach.

Alcohol and the law

In the UK it is illegal for someone under 18 to buy alcohol, and it is illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is under 18.


Many young people start smoking these days, because they see their friends smoking and want to feel they are part of the group. However, cigarettes are also very unhealthy and can be very addictive. They cause lung cancer and heart attacks, and they also cost a lot of money.

Cigarettes and the law

In the UK it is illegal to buy cigarettes if you are under 18, and it is illegal to sell cigarettes to someone who is under 18.

For more help

If you or someone in your family has a problem with drugs, alcohol or cigarettes it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about this. He or she will be able to tell you where you can get more help.


Task 1 - how much do you know?

Task 2 - vocabulary

Task 3 - is it legal?