Background: Although the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control prioritizes monitoring of tobacco use by population-based surveys, information about the prevalence and patterns of tobacco use in sub-Saharan Africa is limited. We provide country-level prevalence estimates for smoking and smokeless tobacco (SLT) use and assess their social determinants.
Methods: We analyzed population-based data of the most recent Demographic Health Surveys performed between 2006 and 2013 involving men and women in 30 sub-Saharan African countries. Weighted country-level prevalence rates were estimated for 'current smoking' (cigarettes, pipe, cigars, etc.) and 'current SLT use' (chewing, snuff, etc.). From the pooled datasets for men and women, social determinants of smoking and SLT use were assessed through multivariate analyses using a dummy country variable as a control and by including a within-country sample weight for each country.
Results: Among men, smoking prevalence rates were high in Sierra Leone (37.7%), Lesotho (34.1%), and Madagascar (28.5%); low (<10%) in Ethiopia, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sao Tome & Principe; the prevalence of SLT use was <10% in all countries except for Madagascar (24.7%) and Mozambique (10.9%). Among women, smoking and SLT prevalence rates were <5% in most countries except for Burundi (9.9%), Sierra Leone (6%), and Namibia (5.9%) (smoking), and Madagascar (19.6%) and Lesotho (9.1%) (SLT use). The proportion of females who smoked was lower than SLT users in most countries. Older age was strongly associated with both smoking and SLT use among men and women. Smoking among both men and women was weakly associated, but SLT use was strongly associated, with education. Similarly, smoking among men and women was weakly associated, but SLT use was strongly associated, with the wealth index. Smoking and SLT use were also associated with marital status among both men and women, as well as with occupation (agriculturists and unskilled workers).
Conclusions: Prevalence of smoking among women was much lower than in men, although the social patterns of tobacco use were similar to those in men. Tobacco control strategies should target the poor, not/least educated, and agricultural and unskilled workers, who are the most vulnerable social groups in sub-Saharan Africa.