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Association of snuff use with chronic bronchitis among South African women: implications for tobacco harm reduction


Objective: Nasal use of snuff is the predominant form of tobacco use among black South African women. This study examines the association between snuff use and chronic bronchitis (CB) among black South African women.

Design: The study investigated a nationally representative sample of 4464 black South African women ⩾25 years old who participated in the 1998 South African Demographic and Health Survey. Data on participants’ tobacco use patterns, medical history and other relevant factors were obtained through an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR) were also measured. Data analysis included χ2 statistics, Student t tests and multiple logistic regression analysis.

Outcome measure: CB, defined as reporting a productive cough for ⩾3 months/year for at least 2 successive years.

Results: The prevalence of current snuff use was 16.1% (n = 719). Compared to non-users of snuff, snuff users were not only more likely to present with a history of tuberculosis (TB) (23.3% vs 15.9%; p = 0.06), but they were also more likely to present with CB (5.3% vs 2.8%; p<0.01) and a lower PEFR (275 litres/min vs 293 litres/min; p<0.01). Significant determinants of CB included snuff use >8 times/day (odds ratio (OR) 2.86, 95% CI 1.17 to 7.02), a history of TB (OR 7.23, 95% CI 4.02 to 13.03), current smoking (OR 2.84, 95% CI 1.60 to 5.04) and exposure to smoky cooking fuels (OR 1.98, 95% CI 1.32 to 2.96).

Conclusions: These data suggest that snuff use, in the form predominantly used in South Africa, increases the risk of CB. This challenges the idea that snuff may be a much less harmful alternative to smoking in South Africa.

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