Still a burning issue: Trends in the volume, content and population reach of newspaper coverage about tobacco issues

Melanie A. Wakefield, Emily Brennan, Sarah J. Durkin, Kim Mcleod, Katherine C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Tobacco control advocates expend considerable effort in generating news stories on tobacco issues to assist progress in tobacco control, and the news coverage itself may have important policy and behavioral influences. Yet, studies of trends in such news coverage are uncommon. Between 2001 and 2006, we conducted a content analysis of tobacco-related newspaper articles in the 12 major daily Australian newspapers and coded them for type of article, topic, and tone. Overall, 6483 tobacco-focused articles were published, representing an average of one article every 4 days for each newspaper. There was variability in volume between years but no decline over time. Overall, 67% of articles reported on events that represented progress for tobacco control, 21% on setbacks, and 7% on events that were of mixed impact. Newspaper coverage of tobacco issues was dominated by articles on smoke-free issues (32% of articles), health effects of smoking (12%), education, prevention and cessation programs and services (12%), and the tobacco industry (9%). During the 6-year period, on average, Australian adults were potentially exposed to around one article on tobacco issues every week, or using a more stringent prominence-adjusted measure, one article every 2 to 3 weeks, a level comparable to paid media campaigns in some jurisdictions. Temporal variation in population exposure to news coverage about tobacco issues may reflect variability in newsworthiness of tobacco control issues, media advocacy resources and success, and/or preparedness of editors and journalists to entertain news stories on tobacco.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-325
Number of pages13
JournalCritical Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • Advocacy
  • Content analysis
  • Health promotion
  • Media
  • Newspaper coverage
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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