Tobacco Use in South African Emergency Centre Patients: Opportunities for Intervention

Claire van der Westhuizen, Megan Malan, Tracey Naledi, Bronwyn Myers, Dan J. Stein, Katherine Sorsdahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tobacco-attributable deaths in South Africa have increased since 1990, yet data are scanty from healthcare settings. Internationally, emergency centre (EC) visits are increasingly utilised as opportunities for health risk behaviour screening and intervention, but this is not the case in South Africa. Effective advocacy for these services requires data on the prevalence and correlates of tobacco use among South African EC patients. The study objectives were to investigate tobacco prevalence and associated factors in ECs. Demographics, hospital presentation and substance use data were collected as part of a screening and brief intervention programme for alcohol and drugs in three ECs. We conducted descriptive statistics and utilised logistic regression to examine the associations of demographics, presenting complaint and substance use with moderate–high risk-tobacco use as the dependent variable. Of 12,522 patients screened, 37.0% used tobacco and 35.7% showed moderate–high risk for tobacco-related harms. Factors associated with tobacco-related harms included male gender and moderate–high risk for other substances. Of the patients who met criteria and received an intervention for alcohol or drugs, 65.5% were at moderate–high risk for tobacco-related harms. Given the high prevalence of tobacco use among patients attending ECs, intervening on this platform has the potential to reduce risk for non-communicable disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1229-1236
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health and Addiction
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Brief intervention
  • Emergency centres
  • Screening
  • Screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment
  • Substance use
  • Tobacco


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