Newspaper coverage of tobacco issues in Australia, 2002

Wakefield M, Durrant R, McLeod K

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 1, July 2003

The aim of this study was to examine newspaper coverage of tobacco issues in Australian national and state capital city newspapers in 2002, and to compare this coverage to that which occurred in 2001.

Overall, there were 1,215 tobacco-focused articles in 2002, representing 200,000 column cm2. The most frequent theme in 2002, as in 2001, was second hand smoke issues, which captured 25% of total tobacco related news coverage. Somewhat fewer articles were related to education, prevention and cessation programs in 2002 than in 2001; however, there were relatively more articles focusing on health effects and the tobacco industry.

Coverage in 2002 remained largely positive for tobacco control objectives, both in terms of the events being reported on, and the opinions voiced in editorials, columns and letters. As in 2001, Victoria was the state with the highest absolute and relative volume of coverage in 2002 with 392 articles. The frequency of coverage increased in Western Australia in 2002 from the previous year, although coverage in South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory declined somewhat.

In sum, the pattern of newspaper coverage of tobacco issues in Australia in 2002 was largely similar to that which was found in the previous year. As coverage was largely positive, and tobacco issues remained prominent in the news, these results can be considered good news for tobacco control and reflect the persistent efforts of the many tobacco control advocates throughout Australia.