Tobacco habits among Bajau and Kadazan women in Sabah, Malaysia
Two cross-sectional surveys were conducted to document the prevalence and practice of tobacco habits among the indigenous people of Sabah State. The sample size was estimated, and multistage sampling was carried out in the two selected districts. A questionnaire designed for a structured interview was used. A total of 431 rural Bajau women and 472 rural Kadazan women responded. The prevalence of smokeless tobacco use among rural Bajau women in Kota Belud district was 77%, and that among rural Kadazan women in Tambunan district was 60%. In both ethnic groups, tobacco was seldom chewed by itself but was used as an ingredient in the ritual of betel chewing. In betel chewing, a number of products in various combinations are chewed: areca nut (seed of Areca catechu L.), the leaf of Piper betle L., lime from boiled sea-shells, gambir (a preparation from the leaves and twigs of the shrub Uncaria gambir) and tobacco. The use of smokeless tobacco was common among women, but the prevalence was low among men; however, the prevalence of smoking among the women was low. The prevalence of smoking was only 3.3% among Bajau women and 11% among Kadazan women. Both hand-rolled and manufactured cigarettes were smoked. Factors that influenced tobacco use among women included easy access to locally grown tobacco, low educational status and the cultural and social acceptance of tobacco use. Preventive and control measures against tobacco use are required in these communities.