Traditional healers' perceptions of smokeless tobacco use and health in the Limpopo Province of South Africa

Subst Use Misuse. 2006;41(2):211-22. doi: 10.1080/10826080500391837.


Traditional healers (THs) exert a significant influence in indigenous South African communities, where smokeless tobacco (SLT) use and dependence is common among women. This study was conducted during 2002. It sought to explore THs' beliefs about SLT use and its health effects. In-depth interviews were conducted with 28--mostly female (68%)--registered THs, with a mean age of 55 years and with an average of 17 years of practice experience. These listed THs were randomly selected from two culturally diverse regions of the (largely rural) Limpopo Province in South Africa. The THs perceive the ritual (external) use of SLT as an absolute necessity in divination, but 32% have also prescribed its 'internal' use to their clients, usually following a "directive from the ancestors." Almost all the THs who themselves regularly consume SLT condemned the recreational use of SLT and believe that SLT is addictive. However, 39% of them claimed to be able to treat addiction resulting from tobacco use not sanctioned by the ancestors. This study has identified opportunities for enlisting THs' collaboration in future community-based tobacco dependence interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Middle Aged
  • South Africa
  • Tobacco, Smokeless*