ABSTRACT Aims To investigate the ways in which pre-teenage children anticipate and deal with the offer of drugs. Design A qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews with 10–12-year-old schoolchildren. Setting The cities of Glasgow (Scotland) and Newcastle (England), UK. Participants A sample of 216 pre-teenage children. Forty-three had used drugs on at least one occasion, 42 had been offered but had not used drugs and 131 had neither used drugs nor been offered them. Most of the results reported in the paper relate to the experiences of the 42 children who had declined the offer of drugs. Findings While children who had not been exposed to drug offers expressed a high degree of confidence in their ability to deal with them, those who had actually had to cope with such offers experienced a variety of difficulties. The ease with which an offer could be declined appeared to depend upon two main factors: who was making the offer and the context in which it was being made. According to the children, offers from people with whom they had a close relationship and those in which pressure or encouragement were involved were particularly difficult to deal with. Conclusions The paper concludes that there is a need to equip young people better with the interpersonal tools they require to deal with the various situations they are likely to encounter in which drugs may be offered. It is suggested that a broadly based life skills approach to drug education may provide the best way of helping young people to deal with these situations.