Multi-level influence of school norms on tobacco use in South Africa: an ecometric consideration of group differences. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: Tobacco use has been found to be related to contextual-environmental characteristics. This study focuses on the influence of contextual norms on adolescent smoking behavior with consideration of racial differences. METHODS: Data for this study were derived from the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use survey. Students (n = 1,277) completed a self-administered questionnaire (available in Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English). School-level aggregate measures were developed from the items: whether they thought smoking was wrong, whether they thought they would be seen as "cool" if they smoked, how many of their closest friends smoked, and whether they had repeated a grade level in school. RESULTS: The results of this analysis revealed that after controlling for demographic characteristics, aggregate measures of importance for ever smoking were whether there were school norms of perceiving that smoking was not wrong, perceiving that smoking was cool, and high prevalence of having friends who smoke. Recent smoking was only predicted by attendance at schools with increased levels of academic failure. Black South Africans were less likely to ever smoke than Coloured or White. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the saliency of both compositional (academic failure) and ecological (collective perceptions about smoking) characteristics in predicting ever and recent smoking. Collective perceptions of smoking in a predominantly Black school were largely negative. These findings can be used to target school norms regarding tobacco use in Cape Town.

published proceedings

  • Cancer Causes Control

author list (cited authors)

  • Gilreath, T. D., Chaix, B., King, G., Matthews, S., & Flisher, A. J.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Gilreath, Tamika D||Chaix, Basile||King, Gary||Matthews, Stephen||Flisher, Alan J

publication date

  • January 2012