Smokeless tobacco use among adolescents in Ilala Municipality, Tanzania

Tanzan J Health Res. 2008 Jan;10(1):28-33. doi: 10.4314/thrb.v10i1.14338.


Smokeless tobacco use is a significant part of the overall world tobacco problem. When the habit is introduced early in life, it increases the chance for permanent addiction and primes adolescents for use of harder drugs, exposing them to higher risk of oral cancer and other adverse effects of tobacco. This baseline study aimed at providing descriptive information on smokeless tobacco knowledge and use among adolescents at a time just before the ban on such products was enforced nationally on 1st December 2006. Six out of 101 primary and four out of 11 secondary schools were randomly selected in Ilala Municipality, Tanzania. A total of 1011 students were randomly selected and interviewed; boys (mean age = 14.5 years) accounted for 50.7% and girls (mean age = 13.6 years) 49.3%. The prevalence of tobacco use was 5.9% (boys = 9%; girls = 2.4%). Prevalence of smokeless tobacco use was 3.6%, about half of all who have ever smoked. Most popular brand of smokeless tobacco reported was Kuberi (44.8%) followed by Gutka (6.9%). Twelve (41%) of the smokeless tobacco users were using the products almost everyday. Among the reasons reported for smokeless tobacco use were pleasure (27.6%), smell (17.2%) and taste (6.9%). However, 48.3% of the users did not know why they used the product for the first time. Smokeless tobacco products were branded as nutritional supplements with different tastes and strengths, ideal for enticing the curiosity of adolescents. Given the crafty practice of the tobacco industry and salesmen, there is need for monitoring of availability of these products in circulation and enforcement of the ban nationally and globally to institute measures for effective elimination of this harmful practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • Tanzania / epidemiology
  • Tobacco, Smokeless*
  • Urban Population