Smoking prevalence among secondary school pupils has continued to fall, a new survey has revealed.

Less than a quarter (23%) of pupils aged between 11 and 15 said they had tried smoking “at least once” in 2012, down from 25% the year before, while 4% of pupils said they smoked at least one cigarette a week – the survey’s definition of regular smoking. This was also down from 5% in 2011, according to the annual Smoking, Drinking and Drug use among young people in England report.

The proportion of pupils who said they tried to purchase cigarettes from shops has also fallen from 7% in 2010 to 5% in 2012, as store owners continued to enforce rigorous underage sales policies. However, of those regular smokers (4%), 60% said their usual sources for cigarettes were shops.

Pupils were far more likely to ask older people to purchase cigarettes for them, and likely to get cigarettes as a result.

In 2012, 8% of pupils had asked somebody to buy cigarettes on their behalf, and nine out of 10 said they had been successful at least once.

Independent retailer and Tobacco Retailers Alliance spokeswoman Debbie Corris welcomed the findings, and also called for a ban on proxy purchasing. “We would also like to see proxy purchasing being banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the way it is Scotland, as this would bring to an end an easy way that the underage are accessing tobacco,” she said.

The report also found that the number of school pupils drinking alcohol has also continued to fall, with one in 10 pupils (10%) admitting to having drunk alcohol in the last week - down from 25% in 2003.

Whether pupils drink or not also appears to be strongly influenced by the behaviour and attitudes of their families. More than 80% of pupils whose households do not include anyone who drinks had never themselves drunk alcohol, compared with 30% of pupils who lived with three or more drinkers.