Socioeconomic Disparities in Smoking Behavior and Early Smoking Initiation among Men in Malawi




Tobacco smoking is a growing concern for health care systems as it is projected to become the leading cause of death in the developing world. Knowledge of how smoking behavior differs across socioeconomic groups is crucial for designing effective preventive policies and alleviating the disparities. The aim of this study was to report the prevalence of (1) smoking status, (2) early smoking initiation, and (3) association with socioeconomic status (SES) of the 2 among Malawian men.



Cross-sectional data on 1693 men aged between 15 and 49 years were collected from the latest 2013-2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Malawi. Educational qualification and wealth index quintile were used as the indicators of SES. Outcome variables were smoking status, first age of smoking being below 18 years, and ever using any form of smokeless tobacco products. Multiple logistic regression models were used to see the contribution of SES to smoking status and early smoking initiation.



Mean age of the sample population was 33.23 years (SD: 8.25). Prevalence of smoking, early initiation, and ever using any form of smokeless tobacco were, respectively, 46.6%, 33.7%, and 6%. Compared with men who had higher education, those who had no formal education, primary-level, and secondary-level qualification had, respectively, 21% (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.209; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.498-2.935), 40% (AOR = 1.4; 95% CI = 0.647-3.029), and 26% (AOR = 1.256; 95% CI = 0.593-2.661) higher odds of being a smoker. Those who had no formal education were 2.7 times (AOR = 2.734; 95% CI = 1.123-6.653) as likely to try smoking before reaching 18 years of age. Compared with the richest, those in the lowest wealth quintile had 32% lower odds (AOR = 0.676; 95% CI = 0.455-1.006) of early onset of smoking, 63% lower odds (AOR = 0.372; 95% CI = 0.201-0.690) of trying other tobacco products.



Addressing the socioeconomic disparities could play a vital role in delaying early onset and limiting overall consumption of tobacco. Ongoing health policy talks to reduce the prevalence of smoking should take into consideration improving educational and material well-being among men.

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