Gender differences in use of cigarette and non-cigarette tobacco products among adolescents aged 13-15 years in 20 African countries

Israel T. Agaku*, Rose Sulentic, Adriana Dragicevic, Gibril Njie, Candace K. Jones, Satomi Odani, Tina Tsafa, Joy Gwar, Constantine I. Vardavas, Olalekan Ayo-Yusuf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION Examining gender differences in youth tobacco use is important as it aligns tobacco control within the context of broader human development goals seeking to eliminate gender inequalities. In this study, we examined gender differences in adolescent use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, shisha, and e-cigarettes in Africa. METHODS This was a cross-sectional study using data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Our analytical sample comprised 56442 adolescents aged 13–15 years from 20 African countries. Weighted, country-specific prevalence estimates were computed overall and by gender. Adjusted prevalence ratios (APRs) were calculated in a multivariable Poisson regression model to examine whether correlates of tobacco use differed between boys and girls. RESULTS Ever cigarette smoking prevalence was significantly higher among boys than girls in 16 of the 20 countries, but a significantly higher percentage of girls reported earlier age of cigarette smoking initiation than boys within pooled analysis. Some of the largest gender differences in current cigarette smoking were seen in Algeria (12.2% vs 0.8%, boys and girls, respectively), Mauritius (21.2% vs 6.6%), and Madagascar (15.0% vs 4.1%). Current use of e-cigarettes, shisha, and smokeless tobacco was generally comparable between boys and girls where data existed. Among girls, higher levels of reported exposure to tobacco advertisement were positively associated with shisha smoking whereas perceived tobacco harm was inversely associated with current cigarette and shisha smoking. Among boys, perceived social acceptability of smoking at parties was associated with an increased likelihood of cigarette smoking (APR=2.27; 95% Cl: 1.20–4.30). CONCLUSIONS The prevalence of cigarette smoking among boys was higher than that of girls in many countries. However, girls who smoke tend to start at an earlier age than boys. Differential gender patterns of cigarette and non-cigarette tobacco product use among youth may have implications for future disease burden. As the tobacco control landscape evolves, tobacco prevention efforts should focus on all tobacco products, not just cigarettes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTobacco Induced Diseases
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • cigarettes
  • e-cigarettes
  • novel tobacco products
  • policy
  • tobacco


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