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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health
Building capacity for a tobacco-free world
July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA
Objective: The influence of news media on setting the agenda for public opinion and tobacco policy change is widely recognised; news coverage may also have direct effects on smoking behaviour. However, there has been little systematic surveillance and analysis of news coverage on tobacco issues. We aimed to assess the extent and nature of newspaper coverage about tobacco in Australia from 2001 to 2004.
Methods: We content analysed all articles (n=4298) containing at least one paragraph focussed on tobacco in all major Australian national and state newspapers (n=12) from 2001 to 2004. Each article was coded for prominence, type, tobacco control theme and slant relative to tobacco control objectives.
Results: Overall, 73% were hard news articles, 13% letters to the editor and 8% columns. The three most frequent themes were second-hand smoke issues (31%), to education, cessation and prevention efforts (13%) and the health effects of smoking (12%). Events covered in news articles mainly reported on progress in tobacco control (65% progress; 22% setbacks). Of all commentary articles, opinions expressed by authors supported progress in tobacco control (65% supported; 21% opposed). The amount of coverage and population exposure to tobacco focused articles also varied across states and over time. This monitoring system represents a way of tracking media advocacy performance. Advocates can take heart that the majority of news coverage is supportive of progress in tobacco control. While secondhand smoke issues dominate coverage, the health effects of smoking are still considered newsworthy, representing one in every eight articles.