Utilisation of smoking cessation aids among South African adult smokers: findings from a national survey of 18 208 South African adults

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the use of different cessation aids among current South African smokers who have ever tried to quit smoking. DESIGN: Cross-sectional design. SETTING: South Africa has progressively passed several policies over the past few decades to encourage smoking cessation. Data on cessation behaviours are needed to inform policymaking. We investigated utilisation of evidence-based cessation aids and e-cigarettes among current combustible smokers. Current tobacco use, past quit attempts and use of evidence-based cessation aids (counselling, nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medication) were self-reported. Data were weighted and analysed using descriptive and multivariable approaches (p<0.05). PARTICIPANTS: Online participants were recruited from the national consumer database for News24-South Africa's largest digital publisher. Of the 18 208 participants aged 18 years or older, there were 5657 current smokers of any combustible tobacco product (cigarettes, cigars, pipes or roll-your-own cigarettes), including 4309 who had ever attempted to quit during their lifetime. RESULTS: Current combustible tobacco smoking prevalence was 22.4% (95% CI: 21.2% to 23.5%), and 98.7% of all current smokers of any combustible tobacco were current cigarette smokers. Awareness of cessation aids was as follows among current combustible tobacco smokers: smoking cessation counselling programmes, 50.8% (95% CI: 48.1% to 53.6%); nicotine replacement therapy, 92.1% (95% CI: 90.5% to 93.6%); prescription cessation medication, 68.2% (95% CI: 65.2% to 70.6%). Awareness of cessation aids was lowest among Black Africans, men, and persons with little or no income. Of all current combustible tobacco smokers, 74.6% (95% CI: 72.2% to 76.7%) had ever attempted to quit and 42.8% (95% CI: 40.0% to 45.4%) of these quit attempters had ever used any cessation aid. Among current combustible smokers who attempted to quit in the past, ever e-cigarette users were more likely than never e-cigarette users to have ever used any cessation aid (50.6% vs 35.9%, p<0.05). Of current combustible smokers intending to quit, 66.7% (95% CI: 64.2% to 68.9%) indicated interest in using a cessation aid for future quitting. By specific aids, 24.7% (95% CI: 21.3% to 28.1%) of those planning to use any cessation aid were interested in getting help from a pharmacist, 44.6% (95% CI: 40.9% to 48.4%) from a doctor, 49.8% (95% CI: 46.0% to 53.6%) from someone who had successfully quit, 30.0% (95% CI: 26.7% to 33.4%) from a family member and 26.5% (95% CI: 23.0% to 30.0%) from web resources. CONCLUSION: Only two in five past quit attempters had ever used counselling/pharmacotherapy. Any putative benefits of e-cigarettes on cessation may be partly attributable to pharmacotherapy/counselling given concurrent use patterns among past quit attempters using e-cigarettes. Comprehensive tobacco control and prevention strategies can help reduce aggregate tobacco consumption.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Medicine and Community Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • education
  • global health
  • public health practice
  • public health professional
  • smoking cessation


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