BACKGROUD: This study sought to provide an epidemiological profile of non-daily (ND) smokers in South Africa.
METHODS: Using data obtained from the 1998 South African demographic and health survey (SADHS) - the largest nationally representative dataset available - smokers were classified as non-daily (ND) smokers or daily smokers. NDS were defined as persons aged 18 and over who had ever smoked 100 cigarettes, but did not currently smoke daily.
RESULTS: In 1998, an estimated 10% of current smokers were ND smokers (n = 255). Of the ND smokers, 69.7% had smoked daily in the past and currently smoked significantly fewer cigarettes per day (CPD) than current daily smokers (5.4 vs. 9.8). ND smokers were also significantly more likely to have made at least one attempt to quit smoking, live in smoke-free homes, have more than 12 years of schooling and live in urban areas. Compared to past daily ND smokers, those ND smokers who had never smoked daily smoked fewer CPD and were more likely to be younger than 25 years old.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study suggest that the majority of ND smokers in South Africa are those trying to quit smoking rather than those initiating smoking. Smoking rates among ND smokers are still at a level that has been shown to pose significant health risks, therefore health practitioners should also prioritise non-daily smokers for interventions regarding smoking cessation.