Introduction Tobacco consumption and consequent morbidity and mortality are expected to grow most markedly over coming decades in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Preventing tobacco experimentation and uptake among young people in LMICs is therefore vital. However, data on smoking in these countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, remain sparse.
Method We used two-stage cluster random sampling to select students in upper and senior secondary schools throughout The Gambia, and a self-administered questionnaire to collect data on their tobacco use, risk factors and demographic details.
Results Of 10 392 eligible students, 10 289 (99%; 55% girls and 44% boys, age 12–20 years) participated. The prevalence of ever smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes was 16.7% (25.7% boys and 9.4% girls) and current (past 30 days) smoking 4.5% (7.9% boys and 1.5% girls). Smoking was more common among students attending private schools (OR 1.69, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.22), of Christian or other faiths compared with Muslims, living with parents (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.81), who had smoking allowed in their homes (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.30 to 2.13), with family members who smoked or had one or more friends who smoked. Most (55.6%) smokers want to stop, but only 22% received any stop smoking support. Ever smoking of shisha, at 8.1%, was unexpectedly high, and relatively prevalent among girls (11.4% of boys and 5.4% of girls).
Conclusions Tobacco use is common among young people in The Gambia. Shisha smoking is also common in this population, and in relative terms especially among girls. Further work is required to determine whether this is a problem local to The Gambia or reflects a wider pattern of tobacco use in sub-Saharan Africa.
- public health
- cross-sectional survey
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