Objective: To estimate the prevalence, pattern and correlates of tobacco use amongst the 13-15 year olds in schools of Karnataka.
Methods: A three stage (area, school level and class level) cluster sample design was adopted and 80 schools from 12 districts of the state were selected. A total of 4,110 students participated in the study with an overall response rate of 87%.
Results: Point prevalence of tobacco use amongst 13-15 year old was 4.9%. Current tobacco use was predominantly a male feature and use of smokeless variety predominated (transitional Karnataka (8.2%); metropolis (6.8%); rural (3.4%). One third of current tobacco users (30.8%) purchased tobacco product in a store and one-fifth used it at home. Nearly half of the never smokers (43% to 56.7%) were exposed to tobacco smoke outside home and 83% favored a ban on smoking in public places. A male tobacco user was perceived to have more friends and was reported to make them look attractive. Print media was a predominant source of message, more so in the metropolitan region. Only one-third (31.6%) reported that the reasons of tobacco usage amongst youth was discussed in formal school settings.
Conclusion: GYTS Karnataka has provided reliable estimates and shown the feasibility of implementing a surveillance programme. Specific challenges for Public health that emerge from the study are increasing number of users in transitional areas, continued media exposure, tobacco users being perceived to be popular and attractive, easy and relatively unrestricted access, lack of systematic support within schools and social acceptance of tobacco use at home. The need of the hour is to target and focus interventions through comprehensive programmes aimed at children, school authorities, parents and policy makers.