Cigarette smoking and reasons for leaving school among school dropouts in South Africa

Rachana Desai*, Liesbeth A. G. Mercken, Robert A. C. Ruiter, Jan Schepers, Priscilla S. Reddy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundSchool dropouts are at heightened risk of tobacco use compared to in-school learners. School dropouts are described as those not currently enrolled in school for the academic year, have not completed their schooling, and are between 13 and 20years old. This paper examines the relationship between reasons for leaving school and past month cigarette smoking, taking into account gender differences.MethodsMultiple logistic regression was used to analyse survey data (n=4185). Geographical location was also incorporated into the analysis as effect moderators.ResultsAlthough no significant main effects between reasons for leaving school and tobacco use were found, results showed that those who leave school early smoke more. When examining interaction effects with gender, leaving school due to not being able to pay for school fees' was significantly associated with smoking, but only among girls residing in urban areas (OR=0.327, p=.023).ConclusionsMore research is needed to understand why learners leave school and their subsequent tobacco use. This knowledge will help researchers identify and target those students that are at risk for dropping out of school and using tobacco.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2019


  • Tobacco smoking
  • School dropout
  • South Africa
  • Respondent driven sampling


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