The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

4313.0: Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 8:30 PM

Abstract #41279

US press coverage of smoking as a youth issue

Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD1, Melanie Wakefield, PhD2, Glen Szczypka1, Yvonne Terry-McElrath, MSA3, Sandy Slater, MS1, Sherry Emery, PhD1, and Frank Chaloupka, PhD4. (1) Health Research and Policy Centers, University of Illinois at Chicago, 850 W. Jackson Blvd, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60607, 312 996-4960,, (2) Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, 100 Drummond Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053, Australia, (3) Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Survey Research Center, Room 2341, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2321, (4) Health Research and Policy Centers (M/C 275), University of Illinois at Chicago, 850 West Jackson Blvd, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60607-3025

Successful public health campaigns require clear messages regarding the nature of the problem and proposed solutions. Tobacco control advocates have long battled to formulate and disseminate such messages, often through news media. A debate exists within tobacco control as to whether efforts should be focused on reducing youth smoking, or on challenging the normative smoking environment. This may serve to ‘muddle’ the message being conveyed, resulting in the construction of tobacco as either a ‘youth’ issue or a ‘public health’ issue. The debate has been further complicated by the tobacco industry’s recent claim as a legitimate voice in the arena through its heavily publicized ‘youth prevention’ programs. As part of a larger project relating newspaper coverage on tobacco to youth smoking, we conducted a six month case study of 676 tobacco related articles from US newspapers focused on the issue of youth smoking (10/00-03/01). Each article was coded for various prominence, content and slant variables. Our analyses revealed that news tended to focus on voluntary education and prevention efforts, rather than policy or enforcement initiatives. Articles frequently framed youth smoking as resulting from young people’s ineffective decision making strategies, and youth smoking was regularly coupled with other ‘deviant’ behaviors, thereby portraying smoking as a ‘bad kid’ problem. We discuss the issues associated with a portrayal of smoking as primarily a youth issue, and suggest that although this may be an effective ‘foot in the door’ mechanism for public health, it in fact, offers greater potential for the media-savvy tobacco industry.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

Keywords: Tobacco Control, Media Advocacy

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Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

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The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA