Determinants of regular smoking onset in South Africa using duration analysis

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Nicole Vellios and Corné van Walbeek

Objectives South Africa has achieved significant success with its tobacco control policy. Between 1994 and 2012, the real price of cigarettes increased by 229%, while regular smoking prevalence decreased from about 31% to 18.2%.

Methods Cigarette prices and socioeconomic variables are used to examine the determinants of regular smoking onset. We apply duration analysis techniques to the National Income Dynamics Study, a nationally representative survey of South Africa.

Results We find that an increase in cigarette prices significantly reduces regular smoking initiation among males, but not among females. Regular smoking among parents is positively correlated with smoking initiation among children. Children with more educated parents are less likely to initiate regular smoking than those with less educated parents. Africans initiate later and at lower rates than other race groups.

Conclusions As the tobacco epidemic is shifting towards low-income and middle-income countries, there is an increasing urgency to perform studies in these countries to influence policy. Higher cigarette excise taxes, which lead to higher retail prices, reduce smoking prevalence by encouraging smokers to quit and by discouraging young people from starting smoking.

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