Youth tobacco use in Latin America: What is the real extent of the problem?

Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). Jul-Aug 2019;47(4):328-335. doi: 10.1016/j.aller.2018.09.010. Epub 2019 Mar 30.


Introduction: Cigarette consumption among teenagers is one of the most critical health-related risk behaviors.

Method: Prospective study carried out in seven sites of five Latin American countries (Argentina [Cordoba, N=958, Corrientes, N=1013], Brazil [Curitiba, N=650; Uruguaiana, N=997], Cuba [Havana, N=1004], Mexico [Veracruz, N=991] and Paraguay [Ciudad del Este, N=868]) with public-school adolescents (aged 12-19 years). Respondents were asked to answer the California Student Tobacco Survey.

Results: 6550 adolescents took part in the survey (average age: 14 years). 38.5% (N=2517) "tried smoking" and 37.5% started smoking before the age of 12. Sixty-one percent of adolescents think that cigarettes are easily accessible; 41.7% considered that smokers have more friends; 88% indicated knowledge of the harms of smoking one to five cigarettes per day; 58.9% would smoke new cigarette types with less harmful substances; 27.8% have already used e-cigarettes; 28% have smoked hookah. Fifty-seven point five percent have been, in the past seven days, in the same room with someone who was smoking a cigarette; and 30.5% indicated that there were not any no-smoking rules inside their homes. Identifiable risk factors were (logistic regression analysis): smoking cigarettes offered by friends, smoking cigarettes with less harmful substances, knowing what a hookah is, being in the same room with a smoker in the past week. Identifiable protective factors against tobacco use were: knowing the health risks caused by smoking hookah and to have their own room.

Conclusion: Youth tobacco use in Latin America is a major public health concern, and tobacco control measures are highly needed.

Keywords: Adolescents; New tobacco products; Risk factors; Tobacco.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Latin America / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult