Introduction: Smokeless tobacco in South Africa is commonly used in the form of snuff or chewing tobacco. This paper reports its use among secondary school students and provides evidence of its association with demographic characteristics, tobacco smoking, and socioeconomic status.
Methods: Data were derived from a nationally representative study conducted in 2008 among 10,270 grade 8-11 students from 192 schools in South Africa. Data were collected with self-administered questionnaires. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to examine correlates of past-month smokeless tobacco use.
Results: Nationally, 12.4% of students used smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco or snuff in the month preceding the survey, with significantly higher rates among males (13.6%) than females (10.6%). Smokeless tobacco use differed between racial groups, with African (12.8%) and colored (11.7%) students having the highest rates of past-month use. Grade 8 students (15.3%) reported significantly higher rates of use than grade 11 students (9.1%). Current cigarette smokers (21.3%) reported a higher prevalence of smokeless tobacco use than noncurrent smokers (10.1%). Logistic regression of past-month smokeless tobacco use showed significant associations with race, grade, school socioeconomic level, urbanicity, current cigarette smoking, and having first smoked a cigarette before the age of 10 years.
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence for policy makers and program developers to develop targeted and tailored interventions for young people regarding smokeless tobacco use.