Objective: To report the prevalence and socio-economic correlates of tobacco use among primary school pupils in Nairobi, Kenya.
Design: Cross-sectional school-based survey.
Setting: Ten primary schools in Nairobi, Kenya.
Subjects: A questionnaire was administered to 1198 primary school pupils aged 12 to 17 years and 1130 (response rate 94.3%) students responded under supervision in the classroom.
Results: A total of 31% (95% CI 27.5-34.5) had experimented with smoking, 9% (95% CI 7.1-11.5) with smokeless tobacco and 55% (95% CI 50.7-59.6) reported having friends who smoked. The rates of lifetime smoking were statistically significantly higher in urban than in suburban students (33% versus 25%, p<0.05), whereas a higher proportion of suburban residents reported lifetime use of smokeless tobacco (8 % versus 12 %, p<0.05). Among urban as well as suburban students, 15 years and above were significantly more likely than their counterparts aged 14 years and below to report lifetime smoking, lifetime use of smokeless tobacco, fathers' use of tobacco, and friend's tobacco use. The adjusted odds ratios, OR, and 95% confidence intervals, 95% CI, for students ever smoking were 2.2 (95% CI 1.3-1.8), 2.4 (95 % CI 1.6-3.7), 1.8 (95 % CI 1.1-3.2 and 2.6 (95 % CI 1.7-4.1) for place of residence, gender, age and friend's use of tobacco.
Conclusion: Generally, the proportions of primary pupils using different forms of tobacco were low in Nairobi province, although the proportion of pupils who had smoked at least once in their lifetime amounted to 31%. Since primary school pupils live in an environment that makes them susceptible to smoking, preventive programmes should be introduced to avoid the development of nicotine addiction and regular smoking.