Habit up in smoke

Two experimental lifestyle programmes have had a dramatic effect on smoking rates among South African high school students, researchers said yesterday.

Two experimental lifestyle programmes have had a dramatic effect on smoking rates among South African high school students, researchers said yesterday.

They said the programmes, offered over two years to some 3200 Grade eight pupils at 24 schools in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, had cut the expected increase in smoking rate by half.

The research was carried out by experts from the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) and the US.

Director of health promotion at the MRC, Priscilla Reddy, said the results were "very significant".

She said eight percent of all adult deaths in South Africa were attributable to tobacco use, which equated to 20000 deaths a year.

"If we halve that in adolescence or in childhood, it's going to have significant public health benefits, not just in terms of mortality but in morbidity [disease] as well," she said.

The study found that while smoking rates in a control group of pupils rose by 6percent over the two years, the rate among those on the two programmes rose by only an average three percent.

There were however gender differences: the programmes were more effective in holding back smoking rates among boys than among girls.

They were also noticeably more effective among black, white and Indian children. Coloureds had the highest smoking rates.

One programme was life skills training, based on a model used at thousands of US schools, which had a strong emphasis on abstinence and resisting peer pressure.

Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said legislation was only one component of a comprehensive tobacco control policy. - Sapa

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