- Research article
- Open Access
- Open Peer Review
This article has Open Peer Review reports available.
Prevalence and determinants of adolescent tobacco smoking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
© Rudatsikira et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007
Received: 30 November 2006
Accepted: 25 July 2007
Published: 25 July 2007
Tobacco smoking is a growing public health problem in the developing world. There is paucity of data on smoking and predictors of smoking among school-going adolescents in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, the aim of this study is to estimate the prevalence of smoking and its associations among school-going adolescents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2003 were used to determine smoking prevalence, determinants, attitudes to, and exposure to tobacco advertisements among adolescents.
Of the 1868 respondents, 4.5% males and 1% females reported being current smokers (p < 0.01). Having smoking friends was strongly associated with smoking after controlling for age, gender, parental smoking status, and perception of risks of smoking (OR = 33; 95% CI [11.6, 95.6]). Male gender and having one or both smoking parents were associated with smoking. Perception that smoking is harmful was negatively associated with being a smoker (odds ratio 0.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.2–0.5)
Prevalence of smoking among adolescents in Ethiopia is lower than in many other African countries. There is however need to strengthen anti-tobacco messages especially among adolescents.
Smoking, which is the major single known cause of non-communicable diseases [1–5], is widespread around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 30% of the adult male global population smokes . National smoking prevalence among men in sub-Sahara Africa vary from 20% to 60% and the annual cigarette consumption rates are on the rise for both men and women . Among sub-Saharan African youth, rates of smoking range from 1.4% in Zimbabwe and 1.5% in Nigeria to 34.4% in Cape Town, South Africa, which is cause for concern . In Kenya, 7.2% of school-going adolescents smoke cigarettes while 8.5% use other forms of tobacco products . The prevalence of smoking among young Ethiopian (15–25 years of age) living in Addis-Ababa was 11.8% for males and 1.1% for females in 1995 .
As the life expectancy improves in developing countries, non-communicable chronic diseases, many of which are associated with smoking, are expected to gain greater prominence. It is estimated that 50% of adolescents who start smoking become regular smokers . About 50% of those who continue to smoke during adulthood die from diseases associated with smoking . An estimated 250 million of today's children are expected to die from tobacco-related diseases .
While the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) Collaborative Group has estimated the prevalence of tobacco smoking among teenagers in most countries , there is scarcity of studies on the predictors of smoking among African teenagers. In the absence of accurate data on factors associated with smoking among Ethiopian youth, the aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of tobacco smoking and determinants of smoking among adolescents in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
This study was conducted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a city with a population of 3.5 to 4 million. It is the official diplomatic capital of Africa with more than 90 embassies and consular representatives, which makes it the fourth diplomatic center in the world. Addis Ababa is the Headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) since1988. It also houses the headquarters of Africa Union (AU), formerly the Organisation of African Unity since 1963.
The data used in this study was obtained under the 2003 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) conducted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The GYTS is a school-based survey of students aged 13–15 years. It is a cross-sectional study utilizing a multistage sample design with schools selected proportional to enrollment size. Within a selected school, classrooms are chosen randomly. All the students within the selected classes are eligible for participation regardless of their actual ages. A questionnaire is self-completed anonymously by the students and this takes between 30 to 40 minutes. The GYTS uses a standardized core pertinent within their settings. The GYTS core questionnaire aims to collect the following information: prevalence of cigarette smoking and other tobacco use among young people; knowledge and attitudes of young people towards cigarette smoking; role of the media and advertising on young people's use of cigarettes; access to cigarettes; tobacco-related school curriculum; exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and cessation of cigarette smoking. For the purpose of this study however, only data related to estimation of prevalence of smoking, associated factors and exposure to pro-tobacco advertisement are reported.
Assessment of current smoking status
The following question was asked to assess the currents smoking status: during the past days (one month), on how many days did you smoke cigarettes?
Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the Ministry of Education. All eligible students were also informed that participation was voluntary. Data collection was conducted in school by trained assistants without the presence of the teacher.
Data were analyzed using Stata version 9.2 (Statacorp, College Station, Texas, United States. Proportions and 95% confidence intervals were obtained as estimates of prevalence. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis was done to determine associations between current smoking status and other relevant variables according to the literature. The prevalence and mean levels were weighted to represent the total population of school going adolescents in Addis-Ababa.
Characteristics of study participants
1868 students participated in the study of whom 1014 (56.3%) were female, and 787 (43.7%) were males. The median age was 15 years.
Prevalence of smoking
Of the 1868 participants, 4.5% (95% CI [2.1, 3.7]) males and 1% (95% CI [0.4, 1.6]) females reported being current smokers (p < 0.01). An estimated 15.1% (95% CI ;12.6, 17.7]) and 5.7% (95% CI [4.3, 7.1]) had ever smoked a cigarette (p < 001).
Factors associated with current smoking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Percentage of smokers
Odds ratio (95% Confidence Interval)
0.7 [0.3, 1.7]
0.8 [0.3, 2.1]
2.0 [0.9, 4.3]
2.1 [0.9, 4.6]
4.6 [2.3, 9.4]
Parental smoking status
One or both parents smokers
2.7 [1.3, 5.6]
Best friend smokers
Most or all
42.2 [18.8, 94.6]
Perception that smoking is harmful
0.3 [0.2, 0.5]
Exposure to tobacco advertisements among adolescents in Addis Ababa
Number of participants
% of total and 95% CI
P = 0.14
Seen cigarette brand name on TV in past 30 days
P < 0.01
Has item with cigarette brand logo
P = 0.01
Seen tobacco adverts on billboards in past 30 days
P = 0.02
Seen tobacco adverts in newspapers/magazines in past 30 days
Attitudes towards tobacco smoking distributed by gender in Addis Ababa
Number of participants/Total for category
% of total and 95% CI
P < 0.01
Felt that boys who smoke have more friends
P = 0.6
Felt like girls who smoke had more friends
P = 0.07
Felt that boys who smoke are attractive
P = 0.2
Felt that girls who smoke are attractive
P < 0.01
Felt that tobacco smoking is harmful to health
90.5 [89.1, 91.8]
88.0 [85.6, 90.1]
92.4 [90.7, 93.9]
Factors associated with current smoking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in Multivariate analysis
Odds ratios (OR) [95% CI]
0.6 [0.2, 2.3]
0.6 [0.2, 2.3]
2.5 [0.9, 7.3]
0.8 [0.7, 4.8]
3.6 [1.4, 8.8]
One or both parents smokers
1.0 [0.3, 3.2]
9.0 [4.0, 20.3]
Most or all
33.3 [11.6, 95.6]
1.6 [0.6, 4.2]
The prevalence of current smoking obtained in this study was 2.9% overall, 4.5% in males and 0.4% in females. As has been demonstrated in other studies [14–16], males had a higher prevalence of smoking than females. Our estimates are at the lower end of the range of the prevalence of smoking among sub-Saharan youth . Mpabulungi and Muula have reported overall smoking prevalence of 21.9%, 12.2% in females and 25.5% in males in Arua, Uganda, but much lower prevalence in Kampala (5.3%), the capital city [17, 18]. It seems that Ethiopia has maintained a low prevalence of smoking among young people as had been reported in the 1980s and 1990s [10, 19].
We found it notable that participants who believed that smoking was harmful to health had lower likelihood of being smokers compared to those who did not (OR= 0.3 95% CI 0.2–0.5). This probably suggests that anti-tobacco messages among young people are effective in discouraging tobacco use. It may also result from the positive influence of role models who have led those children to believe that smoking is harmful. As having a parent who is a smoker was associated with being a current smoker, this suggests the influence that parents have on their children lifestyles. The fact that current smoking was also associated with best friend being a smoker could either suggest peer influence in initiating smoking or that smokers are likely to be-friend other smokers. Either way however, it is likely that having a smoking friend is a major marker of being a smoker oneself.
Despite the relatively lower prevalence of smoking in Addis Ababa compared to other settings in Africa, adolescents are increasingly being exposed to pro-tobacco advertisements in the media, billboards and other means as shown in Table 2. Glorification of smoking in films has potential to influence smoking initiation among youth .
Between 17% and 28% of participants felt that boys who smoke had more friends or were attractive. The perceived positive image that smokers may have could influence initiation and maintenance of smoking among adolescents. Clark et al, have reported on participants' concerns with weight gain in a smoking cessation program. . Concerns about body image are important considerations among young people who perceive that smoking enhances their image. There is therefore need to appraise young people with knowledge about the short and long-term harmful effects of smoking.
The reasons behind the relatively lower prevalence of smoking among adolescents in Ethiopia are not clear. In Uganda, the differences between smoking prevalence in rural Arua and urban Kampala have been in part explained by the fact that Arua is a large tobacco growing area where smoking permissiveness is higher. Davies has reported on the dependency of the economy on tobacco income in Malawi and the consequent difficult to promote anti-smoking efforts . In Ethiopia in 1977 commercial production tobacco accounted for 5% of the total industrial gross value of production and over 1% of the total number of employees in industry and accounting for 1.6% of total government revenue . Tobacco continues to be a major industry in Ethiopia. However, this is not so much a factor within Addis Ababa.
Our study has several limitations. Firstly, the GYTS relies on self-completion of the questionnaires. The accuracy of reporting in this study is not known. However, Brener et al has reported high reliability of results on teenage smoking when questionnaires are administered and self-completed . In our study, no biomarkers such as cotinine levels or exhaled carbon monoxide were done to validate exposure to tobacco either through self use or environmental exposure [24–28].
All study participants were recruited from schools. Interpretation of the results to the general adolescent population in Addis Ababa must be made with caution as school-going adolescents may not be representation of the overall adolescent population. The gross enrollment ratio (GER) in primary and secondary schools in Ethiopia is estimated at between 16% to 28% . The GER is the number of children enrolled in a level (primary or secondary), regardless of age, divided by the population of the age group that officially corresponds to the same level. The gross enrolment ratio (GER) can be higher when there are high levels of repetitions though. The fact that school enrolment for age is low suggests that a large proportion of adolescents in Ethiopia do not attend school. It is possible that our sample may have a different smoking prevalence than those not attending school.
The nature of the GYTS is that only students present on the day of the survey are interviewed, thus excluding those eligible but absent on the day of the survey. If smokers are likely to be absent, then our prevalence under-estimates the actual level of smoking. On the other hand if non-smokers are likely to be absent, then our estimates would over-estimate actual smoking levels. It is however more likely that smokers would skip school and so our estimates are likely to be conservative.
Many tobacco cessation initiatives in Addis Ababa are adult-oriented. Foraker et al however, have reported that perception of lack of appropriate programs hinder cessation of smoking. Cultural practices may also prevent access to care . There is need to provide age and gender-specific smoking cessation programs for adolescents in Ethiopia.
The prevalence of smoking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is much lower than other setting in Africa. There is however need to reduce the current levels. Identification of factors why smoking has been maintained at such low levels in Addis Ababa could guide anti-tobacco initiatives in other parts of Africa.
The GYTS is a collaborative project of WHO/CDC/participating countries. Analyses of GYTS data are not necessarily endorsed by the WHO/CDC/participating countries.
- Toustad S, Andrew-Johnston J: Cardiovascular risks associated with smoking: a review for clinicians. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2006, 13 (4): 507-14. 10.1097/01.hjr.0000214609.06738.62.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Kaur J, Bains K: A study of the risk factor profile of cardiovascular diseases in rural Punjabi male patients. Indian J Public Health. 2006, 50 (2): 97-100.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pesut D, Basara HZ: Cigarette smoking and lung cancer trends in Serbia – a ten year analysis. Med Pregl. 2006, 59 (5–6): 225-9. 10.2298/MPNS0606225P.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Brand RM, Jones DD, Lynch HT, Brand RE, Watson P, Ashwathnayaran R, Roy HK: Risk of colon cancer in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer patients as predicted by fuzzy modeling: influence of smoking. World J Gastroenterol. 2006, 12 (28): 4485-91.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
- Sanchez Hernandez I, Izquierdo Alonso JL, Almonacid Sanchez C: Epidemiology of Lung Cancer in Spain and Forecast for the Future. Arch Bronchoneumol. 2006, 42: 594-599.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- World Health Organization (WHO): Smoking statistics. [http://www.wpro.who.int/media_centre/fact_sheets/fs_20020528.htm]
- Townsend L, Flisher AJ, Gilreath T, King G: A systematic literature review of tobacco use among adults 15 years and older in sub-Saharan Africa. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2006, 84 (1): 14-27. 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.12.008.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Townsend L, Flisher AJ, Gilreath T, King G: A systematic review of tobacco use among sub-Saharan Africa youth. Journal of Substance Use. 2006, 11 (4): 245-269. 10.1080/14659890500420004.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS): Report on the results of Global Youth Tobacco Survey in Kenya-2001. [http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/global/GYTS/reports/afro/2001/Kenya-report.htm]
- Betre M, Kebede D, Kassaye M: Modifiable risk factors for coronary heart disease among young people in Addis Ababa. East Afr Med J. 1997, 74 (6): 376-81.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- MacKey J, Ericksen M: Tobacco atlas. World Health Organization (WHO). 2002Google Scholar
- Peto R, Lopez AD: The future worldwide health effects of current smoking patterns. Tobacco: science, policy and public health. 2004, New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
- Global Youth Tobacco Survey Collaborative Group: Tobacco use among youth: a cross country comparison. Tob Control. 2002, 11: 252-70. 10.1136/tc.11.3.252.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Global Youth Tobacco Survey Collaborating Group: Differences in worldwide tobacco use by gender: findings from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. J Sch Health. 2003, 73: 207-15.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Tobacco use among students aged 13–15 years – Kurdistan Region, Iraq, 2005. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2006, 55 (20): 556-559.Google Scholar
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Use of cigarettes and other tobacco products among students aged 13–15 years – worldwide, 1999–2005. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2006, 55: 553-6.Google Scholar
- Mpabulungi L, Muula AS: Tobacco use among high school students in a remote district of Arua, Uganda. Rural Remote Health. 2000, 6 (4): 609-Google Scholar
- Mpabulungi L, Muula AS: Tobacco use among high school students in Kampala, Uganda: questionnaire study. Croat Med J. 2004, 45: 80-83.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kitaw Y: Socioeconomic and cultural implications of health interventions: the case of smoking in Ethiopia. J Public Health Policy. 1986, 7: 198-204. 10.2307/3342257.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gale J, Fry B, Smith T, et al: Smoking in film in New Zealand: measuring risk exposure. BMC Public Health. 2006, 6: 243-10.1186/1471-2458-6-243.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
- Clark MM, Hurt RD, Croghan IT, et al: The prevalence of weight concerns in a smoking abstinence clinical trial. Addict Behav. 2006, 31: 1144-52. 10.1016/j.addbeh.2005.08.011.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Davies P: Malawi: addicted to the leaf. Tob Control. 2003, 12: 91-3. 10.1136/tc.12.1.91.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
- Brener ND, Kann L, McMannus T, Kinchen SA, Sundberg EC, Ross JG: Reliability of the 1999 youth risk behaviors survey questionnaire. J Adolesc Health. 2002, 31: 336-42. 10.1016/S1054-139X(02)00339-7.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- George L, Granath F, Johansson AL, Cnattingius S: Self-reported nicotine exposure and plasma levels of cotinine in early and late pregnancy. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2006, 85: 1331-7.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jenkins RA, Counts RW: Personal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke: salivary cotinine, airborne nicotine, and nonsmoker misclassification. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 1999, 9: 352-63. 10.1038/sj.jea.7500036.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Mulcahy M, Evans DS, Hammond SK, Repace JL, Byrne M: Secondhand smoke exposure and risk following the Irish smoking ban: an assessment of salivary cotinine concentrations in hotel workers and air nicotine levels in bars. Tob Control. 2005, 14: 384-8. 10.1136/tc.2005.011635.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
- Low EC, Ong MC, Tan M: Breath carbon monoxide as an indication of smoking habit in the military setting. Singapore Med J. 2004, 45: 578-82.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Hung J, Lin CH, Wang JD, Chann CC: Exhaled carbon monoxide level as an indicator of cigarette consumption in a workplace cessation program in Taiwan. J Formos Med Assoc. 2006, 105: 210-3.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- World Bank: Ethiopia: education sector development program (1998). [http://www1.worldbank.org/education/economicsed/project/projwork]
- Foraker RE, Patten CA, Lopez KN, Croghan IT, Thomas JL: Beliefs and attitudes regarding smoking among young adult Latinos: a pilot study. Prev Med. 2005, 41: 126-33. 10.1016/j.ypmed.2004.10.018.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- The pre-publication history for this paper can be accessed here:http://0-www.biomedcentral.com.brum.beds.ac.uk/1471-2458/7/176/prepub
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.