This paper focuses on newspaper coverage of the Marlene Sharp legal case in Australia, concerning a non-smoking bar worker who was awarded damages for laryngeal cancer caused by passive smoking. All Australian metropolitan and Victorian regional newspaper coverage of the case was obtained from a commercial media monitoring agency for the month of May 2001, yielding 100 articles for analysis. A qualitative text analysis was conducted on newspaper articles, coding for content, tone and frame. Coverage of the outcome of the Marlene Sharp case was predominantly positive for tobacco control, with positive coverage (45% of articles) outweighing negative coverage (13% of articles) by a factor of 3 to 1. The most commonly occurring frame (27% of articles) advanced the view that legislation to protect workers from secondhand smoke is appropriate, even overdue, and encouraged the government to create smoke-free policies to protect workers. Other common frames positive for tobacco control included 'smoking as socially unacceptable' (9%) and 'smoking as a societal problem' (9%). Of articles framed negatively for tobacco control, 'individual rights' (5%) and 'system cynicism' (5%) were most common. Legal cases present special opportunities for public health media advocates to bring a human face to the need to progress passage of smoke-free policies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health