Tobacco use and behaviour among South African adolescents and young adults: Systematic review and meta-Analysis

Mukhethwa Londani, Olanrewaju Oladimeji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Tobacco use, particularly the initiation of smoking during adolescence and young adulthood, represents a significant public health concern in South Africa. This study aims to conduct a comprehensive review of published literature about tobacco use and behaviour among adolescents and young adults and to determine an aggregated prevalence estimate of tobacco use within this demographic. Design Systematic review and meta-Analysis. Data sources PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus and Google Scholar were searched from 1 January 2000 through 31 October 2023. Eligibility criteria Studies were eligible for inclusion if they were cross-sectional studies conducted in South Africa and measured the prevalence and determinants of tobacco use among adolescents and young adults aged 12-24 years. Data extraction and synthesis Two reviewers independently extracted information for each article and saved it into an Excel spreadsheet. Risk of bias analysis was conducted using the Risk of Bias Assessment Tool for non-randomised studies. The methodology quality of each selected study was evaluated using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist. The heterogeneity of prevalence estimates was assessed using I 2 statistic (random-effects DerSimonian-Laid approach). Results Out of 73 articles identified, 12 articles were included in the analysis. The pooled prevalence of current tobacco use among South African adolescents and young adults was estimated to be 22%. The pooled prevalence of tobacco use among school dropouts, university students and secondary school learners was 51%, 20% and 16%, respectively. Stratifying using gender, boys (26%) were two times more likely to use tobacco than girls (13%). Conclusion The elevated occurrence of tobacco usage among South African adolescents and young adults is a relevant public health concern. There is a need for more population-based prevalence studies at a national level to estimate the burden of tobacco use in South Africa. PROSPERO registration number CRD42023428369.;

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere079657
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review


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