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Tobacco control in South Africa: Prevention and capacity building

Economic change and increasing urbanisation in South Africa have prompted concern that the already high prevalence of smoking among young people will increase. In addition, efforts to prevent smoking are complicated by differing motivators and barriers to change according to ethnicity.

This five-year study therefore compared the effectiveness of two approaches to the prevention of tobacco use among young people in South Africa. A randomized trial compared the success of two interventions - a life skills training (LST) intervention and a harm minimisation (HM) intervention – in preventing smoking among ethnically diverse adolescents from 36 South African schools. The results indicated that the interventions were comparable in effectiveness, and neither was significantly more successful in reducing smoking than standard tobacco and drug use education. However, intervention effectiveness was variable according to gender and ethnicity, as the LST intervention was more effective for females and the HM approach more effective for males. In addition, the HM approach was most effective for black African adolescents, while the LST intervention was most effective for those with other or mixed ethnicity. This finding indicates the need to understand the differing characteristics and needs of subgroups when developing and delivering tobacco use interventions to target them.

The study also worked to enhance the skills and capacity of South African policy-makers, teachers, clinicians and researchers in relation to tobacco control. This was done by conducting training programs for health professionals, university researchers, students, and national and local policy-makers.

Project Duration


Funding body

NIH/Fogarty International Centre

For further information about this project please contact Professor Donna Cross at


University of Michigan, Professor Ken Resnicow
Professor Donna Cross
Otago University, Professor Greg Hamilton

Project Manager

University of Michigan, Professor Ken Resnicow

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