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Cigarette use among male and female grade 8–10 students of different ethnicity in South African schools
  1. D Swart1,
  2. P Reddy1,
  3. R A C Ruiter2,
  4. H de Vries3
  1. 1National Health Promotion Research and Development Group, Medical Research Council of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2Department of Experimental Psychology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Health Education and Promotion, Maastricht University
  1. Correspondence to: Dehran Swart, National Health Promotion Research and Development Group, Medical Research Council of South Africa, PO Box 19070, Tygerberg, 7505, Cape Town, South Africa; dehran.swart{at}


Objectives: To provide data on the prevalence of cigarette use by male and female South African students of different ethnic backgrounds in grades 8–10 (ages ⩽ 11 to ⩾ 17 years), their age of initiation of cigarette use, as well as their access to cigarettes through underage sales.

Design: A nationally representative survey was conducted using self administered questionnaires translated into seven languages.

Setting: School based.

Participants: Students in grades 8–10 in all of South Africa’s nine provinces.

Outcome measures: The prevalence data for current users of cigarettes (smoked on one or more days in 30 days preceding the survey), and for the age of initiation (first smoking cigarettes before the age of 10) were analysed.

Results: Of the 160 selected schools, 123 schools participated in the survey. The completed survey comprised 6045 of 7074 selected students; 23% of the sample reported being current users of cigarettes. Significantly more males (28.8%) than females (17.5%), and significantly more “Coloured” students than “Black/African” students were classified as current smokers. Sex was the strongest contributor to the prediction of current smoking status. On the issue of age of initiation, 18.5% of students reported having first smoked cigarettes before the age of 10 years with more “Black/African” students than “Coloured” having done so.

Conclusions: In order to tailor tobacco control programmes to the needs of students, historical “racial”/ethnic and sex differences have to be taken into account. Specific determinant studies are needed to understand these differences and to develop appropriate responses.

  • youth
  • prevalence
  • initiation
  • ethnicity
  • access
  • GYTS, Global Youth Tobacco Survey
  • HPS, Health Promoting School
  • SADHS, South African Demographic and Health Survey

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  • * During the apartheid years, all South Africans were classified in accordance with the Population Registration Act of 1950 into “racial groups”—that is, “Black/African”, “Coloured”, “White” or “Indian” and the provision of services occurred along these racially segregated lines. The disproportionate provision of services to different “race groups” led to inequities. Information is still collected along these “racial” divisions in order to redress these inequities. In no way do the authors subscribe to this classification.