Objectives: To examine the prevalence of asthma and the relation between tobacco use and asthma among university students in Costa Rica.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of 1279 adolescents and young adults enrolled in careers in the health sciences in public and private universities in Costa Rica.
Results: Of the 1279 study participants, 105 (8.2%) had current asthma, and 136 (10.6%) reported wheezing in the previous 12 months (current wheezing). Among individuals with either current wheezing or current asthma, none was using anti-inflammatory medications for asthma (e.g., inhaled corticosteroids). Approximately one third of the study participants reported any cigarette smoking. Young adults who had current wheezing were 5.8 times more likely to smoke at least 10 cigarettes per day than those who had no current wheezing [95% confidence interval (CI) for odds ratio (OR) = 3.3-10.2, p < 0.001]. Similar results were observed when an alternative definition of asthma (current asthma) was used in the analysis (OR for smoking at least 10 cigarettes per day = 4.4, 95% CI = 2.3-8.5, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Adequate public health measures are needed to prevent tobacco use in Costa Rican adolescents and to promote smoking cessation among young adults. Young adults with asthma living in Latin American countries with high asthma prevalence, such as Costa Rica, should be better educated with regard to asthma and the risks of tobacco use.