Sunday, December 5, 2021

Botswana’s smoking epidemic ÔÇô an old problem getting younger

Botswana teenagers are among the heaviest smokers in the developing world and the smoking problem seem to be growing into an epidemic a study conducted early last year by the University of Botswana has revealed.
The study sought to determine the current rate of smoking among students, the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions about smoking to inform the development of prevention interventions targeting youth.

Africa has been identified as the future epicentre of the global tobacco epidemic. Youth smoking data show critical warning signs that smoking prevalence among Batswana boys is higher than in other developing regions, and smoking prevalence among girls is higher than among women.

Dr. Bontle Mbongwe, Principal Investigator in the University of Botswana School of Public Health and Co-Investigators, Professor Phaladze (School of Nursing), Mr. Roy Tapera (School of Public Health), Mr. Andrew Lord (Good Business, London) interviewed a total of 2554 students aged 12 to 18 years from 22 Primary, 26 Junior Secondary and 27 Senior Secondary Schools as part of this study on the rapid assessment of knowledge, attitudes and perception of students aged 12 to 18 towards smoking in the cities of Gaborone and Francistown. 

The findings of the research indicate that 10.8% of respondents are current smokers. The majority of adolescents (61%) believe that most people their age smoke, and 64% believe that people their age feel pressure to smoke cigarettes. Smoking is a major and growing public health concern in Botswana and the number of students aged 13-15 who have tried smoking increased from 13.1% in 2002 to 17.0% in 2008, according to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS, 2002 and 2008).

The study also indicates that the number of adolescents trying smoking continues to increase as 29% of respondents in the 13-15 year old age group said they had tried smoking ÔÇô an increase from 18.6% in the 2013 Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance Survey (BYRBSS) study (10-19 year olds) and 17.0% among 13-15 age group in the 2008 (GYTS). About one third (35.3 %) of males were more likely to try smoking cigarettes compared to 23.4 % of their female counterparts. About 15% of the students had tried smoking just once and that males and females are most likely to start smoking within the 13-15 age groups; indicating this is a key age group to target in prevention interventions. There was a strong association between having tried smoking and having a parent, guardian, care- giver or close friend who smokes.

Indications are that “dark marketing” techniques used by the tobacco industry since the demise of “above-the-line” advertising may be winning over a lot of Batswana teenagers. The study showed a strong association between smoking and having seen someone smoking in films, videos, TVs, or magazine picture; indicating that media and role models are influential on adolescent smoking behaviour. Additionally, there was a relationship between smoking and having seen adverts on smoking cigarette and tobacco use, indicating the importance for prevention and the banning of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. There was no relationship between smoking and having seen smoking prevention messages or messages on the harmful effects of smoking; indicating that current smoking prevention messages and messages on the harmful effects of smoking have no impact on youth smoking behaviour. Therefore there is a need for the development of more effective smoking-prevention interventions targeting adolescents.

The results of this survey have contributed to the formation of several anti-smoking initiatives that have been developed in 2014. A follow-up survey to assess the status of knowledge, attitudes and perceptions one year following this survey commences on February 2, 2015.

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