Background: Developing countries are at high risk of epidemic increases in tobacco smoking, but the extent of this problem is not clearly defined because few collect detailed smoking data. We have surveyed tobacco smoking in the Ashanti region of Ghana, a rapidly developing African country with a long-established tobacco industry.
Methods: We took a random sample of 30 regional census enumeration areas, each comprising about 100 households, and a systematic sample of 20 households from each. These were visited, a complete listing of residents obtained, and questionnaire interviews on current and past smoking, age at smoking uptake, sources of cigarettes and other variables carried out in all consenting residents aged 14 or over.
Results: Of 7096 eligible individuals resident in the sampled households, 6258 (88%; median age 31 (range 14-105) years; 64% female) participated. The prevalence of self-reported current smoking (weighted for gender differences in response) was 3.8% (males 8.9%, females 0.3%), and of ever smoking 9.7% (males 22.0%, females 1.2%). Smoking was more common in older people, those of Traditionalist belief, those of low educational level, the unemployed, and the less affluent. Smokers were more likely to drink alcohol and to have friends who smoke. About 10% of cigarettes were smuggled brands. About a third of smokers were highly or very highly dependent.
Conclusions: Despite rapid economic growth and a sustained tobacco industry presence, smoking prevalence in Ghana is low, particularly among younger people. This suggests that progression of an epidemic increase in smoking has to date been avoided.
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