Tobacco use in low- to middle-income countries is a major public health concern for both smokers and those exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Egypt has made important strides in controlling tobacco use, but smoking and ETS remain highly prevalent. This randomized intervention sought to improve the target population’s knowledge regarding the hazards of smoking and ETS and to change attitudes and smoking behaviors within the community and the household.
In this 2005–2006 study in Egypt’s Qalyubia governorate, trained professionals visited schools, households, mosques, and health care centers in rural villages randomly selected for the intervention to discuss the adverse effects of smoking and ETS exposure and ways to reduce one’s ETS exposure. Data collected in interviewer-facilitated surveys before and after the intervention period were analyzed in pairwise comparisons with data from control villages to assess the effectiveness of the intervention in achieving its aims.
The intervention group showed a greater increase in understanding the dangers associated with smoking cigarettes and waterpipes and became more proactive in limiting ETS exposure by asking smokers to stop, avoiding areas with ETS, and enacting smoking bans in the home. However, the intervention had little to no impact on the number of smokers and the amount of tobacco smoked.
Results are consistent with previous studies showing that changing smokers’ behavior can be difficult, but community-wide efforts to reduce ETS exposure through smoking bans, education, and empowering people to ask smokers to stop are effective. The method can be generalized to other settings.