Smoker characteristics and trends in tobacco smoking in Rakai, Uganda, 2010-2018

Nalugoda F, Nabukalu D, Ssekasanvu J, Ssekubugu R, Hoe C, Kagaayi J, Sewankambo NK, Serwadda DM, Wawer MJ, Grabowski KM, Reynolds SJ, Kigozi G, Gray RH, Yeh PT, Chang LW


Tobacco use is a major public health concern, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where 80% of the world's smokers reside. There is limited population-based data from rural Africa on patterns of tobacco smoking and smoker characteristics. We assessed trends in rates of smoking, characteristics of smokers, and factors associated with smoking using repeat population-based cross-sectional surveys in south-central Uganda.


Data accrued over five survey rounds (2010-2018) of the Rakai Community Cohort Study (RCCS) from consenting individuals aged 15-49 years including sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics and smoking status. Proportions of smokers per survey were compared using χ test for trends, and factors associated with smoking were assessed by multivariable logistic regression.


The prevalence of tobacco smoking in the general population declined from 7.3% in 2010-2011 to 5.1% in 2016-2018, p<0.001. Smoking rates declined among males (13.9-9.2%) and females (2.2-1.8%) from 2010-2011 to 2016-2018. Smoking prevalence was higher among previously married (11.8-11.7%) compared to currently (8.4-5.3%) and never married persons (3.1-1.8%) from 2010-2011 to 2016-2018. Older age (≥35 years) was associated with higher odds of smoking (AOR=8.72; 95% CI: 5.68-13.39 in 2010-2011 and AOR=9.03; 95% CI: 5.42-15.06 in 2016-2018) compared to those aged <35 years (AOR=4.73; 95% CI: 3.15-7.12 in 2010-2011 and AOR=4.83; 95% CI: 2.95-7.91 in 2016-2018). Primary and secondary/higher education level was significantly associated with lower odds of smoking (AOR=0.20; 95% CI: 0.14-0.29 in 2010-2011 and AOR=0.26; 95% CI: 0.18-0.39 in 2016-2018) compared to no education (AOR=0.43; 95% CI: 0.31-0.59 in 2010-2011 and AOR=0.48; 95% CI: 0.34-0.68 in 2016-2018). Number of sexual partners and HIV status were not associated with smoking.


We observed declining trends in tobacco smoking in the Rakai region of rural Uganda. Smoking was more prevalent in men, older individuals, individuals who were previously married, and individuals with lower education. The decline in smoking may be due to tobacco control efforts, but there is a continued need to target sub-populations with higher smoking prevalence.