BACKGROUND: The World Bank has reported that global smoking rates declined from 2000 to 2012, with the only exception found in males in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is considered to be in stage one of the tobacco epidemic continuum. To address this problem, school-based programs for smoking prevention are considered cost-effective and promising. Since tobacco prevention programs are influenced by social competence or customs of each country, tobacco prevention programs that have success in Western countries are not always effective in African countries. Therefore, the current study systematically reviewed relevant literature to examine the effects of these types of programs in African countries.

METHOD: Online bibliographic databases and a hand search were used. We included the studies that examined the impact of school-based programs on preventing tobacco use in Africa from 2000 to 2016.

RESULTS: Six articles were selected. Four were conducted in South Africa and two were performed in Nigeria. Four programs were systematically incorporated into annual curriculums, targeting 8th to 9th graders, while the other two were temporary programs. All programs were based on the hypothesis that providing knowledge and/or social skills against smoking would be helpful. All studies utilized smoking or polydrug use rates to compare outcomes before/after intervention. There were no significant differences between intervention and control groups in three studies, with the other three demonstrating only partial effectiveness. Additionally, three studies also examined change of knowledge/attitudes towards smoking as an outcome. Two of these showed significant differences between groups.

CONCLUSION: All RCTs studies showed no significant change of smoking-rate by the intervention. The effectiveness of intervention was observed only in some sub-group. The cohort studies showed school-based interventions may be effective in improving knowledge and attitudes about smoking. However, they reported no significant change of smoking-rate by the intervention.