Data and Methods

In this page we explain the process followed by Development Gateway, in partnership with the University of Cape Town, in the development of the TCDI South Africa website, as well as a description of the data sources and analysis methods used in each of the website’s themes.

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View the methodologies for the respective themes

Methodology Overview

The TCDI South Africa website was developed by Development Gateway in partnership with the University of Cape Town. The website is intended to respond to the needs of government, civil society and academic stakeholders by providing access to demand-driven, high-quality data on national tobacco prevalence, products, and policies. The design, functionality and content for the website are led by the South African tobacco control community’s needs. This document outlines our overall website methodology.

1. Identifying Stakeholder Needs

In January and February 2020, the TCDI team selected stakeholders from 12 tobacco control organisations (see full list here). We conducted short interviews with each one to explore how they make decisions, the data used for these decisions, potential data gaps, and their preferred format for receiving data (e.g. graphs, short paragraphs, infographics). Stakeholders included representatives of government, civil-society-organisations and academia.

2. Reviewing Stakeholder Feedback and Prioritising Needs

The stakeholder feedback was documented during the interviews and later analysed to identify cross-cutting data gaps and the stakeholders’ preferred formats for receiving information. The feedback was distilled according to the frequency and urgency with which each was mentioned by the stakeholders. This process produced 6 priority data gaps and 7 data format guidelines:

Priority data gaps

  1. Tobacco Prevalence
  2. Illicit Tobacco
  3. Impact of Tobacco Policies
  4. Health Burden of Tobacco
  5. E-cigarettes
  6. Tobacco Agriculture

Preferred data format 

  1. Short, concise and attention grabbing 
  2. Simple and easy to understand 
  3. Clear visuals 
  4. Factsheets and individual stories 
  5. Trustworthy data with clearly stated sources
  6. A data repository with data from multiple themes in one place
  7. South Africa or Africa-specific information

The preferred data gaps and format were confirmed with the stakeholders in an interactive workshop in June 2020, during which each data gap was discussed further to identify the sub-thematic components stakeholders wanted to learn more about (for instance, for the tobacco agriculture theme, various sub-themes, such as employment and health risks etc., were identified).

3. Research and Analysis

The TCDI team conducted research and data analysis for each theme, including systematic research of reliable primary data (e.g. data collected by academic institutions, global foundations or governments) and secondary data (e.g. peer-reviewed academic articles). Where required, the primary data were analysed by the team’s economists using statistical software such as Stata and R. The stakeholder needs were reviewed against the primary and secondary data available, relevant statistics and graphs were produced, and explanatory text was written.

4. Website Design

Using the 7 data format guidelines as a starting point, the TCDI team designed the visual elements and functionality of the website. This process included designing the visual elements (infographics, chart formats and colours) and the user functionality (menus, data exports and search functionality). 

5. Expert Review

At least two expert tobacco-control academics were selected per theme to review the quality and reliability of the content. Their feedback was integrated into the text and the design of the website.

6. Stakeholder Review

The 19 tobacco-control stakeholders were invited to small online group discussions during which they opened the website link for the first time, shared their screens and narrated their experience as they navigated through the website. The TCDI team documented the process, noting down any areas for improvement, and evaluating whether the information addresses users’ data needs and the visuals are clear and easy to understand. All feedback was collated to produce a stakeholder feedback matrix.

7. Finalise Design

Using the stakeholder feedback matrix as a guide, the TCDI team conducted additional desk research (where required) to find and analyse data to fill any remaining data gaps. In addition, visual elements and functionality were redesigned wherever necessary. The changes were incorporated into the website themes and the website was published online.

8. Update Periodically

Periodically, the TCDI team will consult with experts, review newly available data, and update the website to reflect any changes, where necessary. Please fill out the Showcase Your Work form if you have newly available data or publications you would like to share.

Smoking estimates for Kenya and Nigeria were calculated using Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data. 2014 DHS data are used for Kenya

and 2018 DHS data are used for Nigeria. Data are only collected for women between the ages of 15 and 49, whilst for men the maximum age ranges from 55 to 59 depending on the survey year. For the purposes of comparability, we restricted the analysis to those aged 15-49 for both men and women.

DHS calculates survey weights data for men and women separately and reports smoking prevalence separately. The TCDI team calculated the combined prevalence rates by reweighting the data based on population estimates from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division. This is done by multiplying the weights in the DHS data by the proportion of males and females in the overall population in the 15 – 49 age group. The prevalence estimates are calculated by dividing the number of smokers in the sample by the total sample and multiplying by the adjusted weights.

The Policies page discusses the various tobacco-control measures used by governments and presents estimates of their effectiveness in reducing tobacco use. In addition to drawing on secondary sources, data analysis was conducted by the TCDI team to illustrate the historical relationship between excise taxes, prices, and the consumption of cigarettes.

Historical Analysis of Excise Taxes, Prices and Consumption

These graphs depict the relationship between the price of cigarettes, the excise tax levied on cigarettes, and consumption levels of cigarettes between 1961 and 2018. 

  • Official consumption is calculated using excise tax revenue reported by SARS and represents the number of cigarettes bought through legal channels.
  • Total consumption is calculated using nationally representative surveys where respondents indicated if they smoked and, if so, how many cigarettes they smoked on average.
  • The difference between total and official consumption is the estimated illicit consumption.
  • It was only possible to estimate total, and therefore illicit, consumption for the years 2002-2017 as the necessary survey data were only available for these years.
  • The analysis on which this graph is based was conducted by tobacco-control experts at the Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP).
  • The Economics of Tobacco: Loss in Productivity due to Tobacco Use

    In the Economics of Tobacco section we explore how the economic cost of tobacco (estimated to be R42 billion) could be spent on alternatives such as in low-cost housing, salaries for teachers, and child support grants. Below we present the sources and calculations.

    Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses – According to South African government records, the maximum cost of building an RDP house was R183 856 in 2018 (equivalent to R166 939 in 2016 prices).

    If the R42 billion lost to tobacco in 2016 was put to use building houses, it could have built over 250 000 RDP houses in that year.

    Teacher salaries – The median secondary school teacher’s annual  salary was R232 000 in February 2021 (equivalent to R197 110 in 2016 prices).

    If the R42 billion lost to tobacco in 2016 was put to this use, it could have paid about 215,000 teachers for a year.

    Child Support Grant (CSG) – The CSG was R440 per month or R5280 per year in 2020 (equivalent to R4794 per year in 2016 prices).

    If the R42 billion lost to tobacco in 2016 was used to pay Child Support grants, approximately 8.8 million children could be given the CSG for a year.

    For the Illicit Trade, Health Burden of Tobacco, and E-Cigarette themes, the TCDI team did not conduct data analysis but rather drew on secondary sources. The team undertook their initial data search and literature review between November and December 2020. Secondary data searches occurred across various platforms, including data repositories, academic journals, and online libraries. The team also reviewed resources from trusted organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The TCDI team consulted with the Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) and subject matter experts, who advised on data sources and reviewed each page before publication.

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    The content in this website is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license. Users of this website can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, as well as remix, transform, and build upon the data. When reusing the data, users must:


    Credit Tobacco Control Data Initiative as the source of data and indicate if changes are made to the data.


    If content is shared, it needs to be done using the same licence or similar license. User cannot share the data with more restrictive rights to use than under the original website license.


    Users can use the data as they see fit, but cannot use the material for commercial purposes.

    See the full license terms here.

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    The information displayed on this website is obtained from multiple sources and has undergone a rigorous verification process. Nevertheless, the accuracy and validity of data and information cannot be guaranteed. The website should therefore be used for guidance only. The TCDI team, and the authors whom we reference, cannot be held responsible for how the information is used.

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    Contact details 

    For any queries on the TCDI methodological approach and data sources, kindly contact the TCDI Data Manager.

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