Despite the growing problem of global tobacco use, accurate information on the prevalence and patterns in the world's poorest nations remains sparse. For sub-Sahara Africa, in particular, a weak knowledge base limits the targeting of strategies to combat the potential growth of tobacco use and its harmful effect on future mortality. To describe the prevalence and social patterns of the use of cigarettes and other tobacco in Africa, this study examines population-based data from 16 Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) of men aged 15-54 years and women aged 15-49 years in 14 nations. Descriptive statistics show the highest cigarette use among men in several nations of east central Africa and Madagascar, lowest use in nations of west central Africa, and medium use in nations of southern Africa. Multinomial logistic regression results for men show highest cigarette use among urban, less educated, and lower status workers. Results for women show much lower prevalence than men but similar social patterns of use. The DHS results thus give new and comparable information about tobacco use in low-income nations, disadvantaged social groups, and an understudied region of the world.