oa South African Family Practice - The smoking habits, attitudes towards smoking and knowledge regarding anti-smoking legislation of students in institutions of higher learning in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa : original research



<I>Background:</I> The study aimed to i) investigate the smoking habits of students attending tertiary institutions of learning in the Eastern Cape Province (ECP) and ii) determine the knowledge of the students about the health hazards of smoking and their attitude towards current government anti-smoking legislation. <br><I>Methods:</I> This was a questionnaire-based study involving all seven tertiary institutions of learning in the ECP, viz. the Universities of Transkei, Fort Hare, Port Elizabeth and Rhodes University, and the Border, Eastern Cape and Port Elizabeth technikons. A total of 1 728 students were interviewed out of a student population of 30, 080. Stratified random sampling was used to select the students. Two-way tables were used to test the independence of the variables and chi-square tests were applied. A 'p' value of below 5% was used as a test of significance. <br><I>Results:</I> A total of 1 480 students completed the questionnaires (86%). The racial classification of the respondents was 79% Black, 13% White, 7% Coloured and 2% Indian. Twenty-six per cent of the students were smokers, of which 37% were male and 15% were female. Forty-five per cent of the Coloured students smoked, while the figures for Whites and Blacks were 26% and 25% respectively. Seventy per cent of the students smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day. Fifty-two per cent of the smokers said they wanted to stop smoking. Sixty-one per cent had been influenced to start smoking by their friends and only 13% were influenced by advertisements. Ninety-four percent agreed that smoking was dangerous to the smoker's health, while 73% responded that there was a relationship between mothers who smoke and low birth weight. Thirteen per cent thought the legislation was too tough, while 30% said it was good as it was. On measures to reduce smoking, 86% favoured restricting smoking in public places. <br><I>Conclusion:</I> This study has demonstrated that smoking is prevalent in tertiary institutions of learning in the Eastern Cape Province. The demographic profile of the smokers reflects the national picture. The knowledge of the harmful effects of smoking is generally good.


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